Achieving Execution Excellence with Kanban and Theory of Constraints (TOC)

Studies indicate that only approximately s40% of the projects meet schedule, budget and quality and 60% of a project's effort is spent in rework. Surveys conducted by the Boston Consulting Group show that in complex organizations (20 percent of organizations) managers spend 40 percent of their time writing reports and 60 percent coordinating meetings. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, about 60 percent, or 3 out of every 5 employees, feel they do not have the right information. Putting the above statistics in perspective, visualizing work to identify bottlenecks and improve flow, enabling access to right information, reducing re-work can go a long way to enhance productivity / throughput leading to excellence on schedule, budget and quality goals.

This case study shares the experience from a large Software Application Maintenance project in the package space in the manufacturing domain. The team faced the twin dilemma of cost of delivery reduction from the organization and customer expectation for increased “back office” ticket throughput.

Kanban and TOC with it’s focus on incremental, evolutionary and people centric approach to visualize workflow, surface bottlenecks,  engaging the team to improve flow was a natural choice to enable cycle time / throughput improvements. The constraints and bottlenecks that surfaced from workflow visualization through Kanban boards were addressed by:

• Reducing multi-tasking through WIP limits, planning / prioritization policies, identifying and resolving high WIP patterns through usage of Cumulative Flow Diagrams (CFD) and Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

• Streamlining demand to improve flow

• Elevating constraints through cross skilling, mistake proofing, automation

• Standardization of planning, operating procedures

• Fostering collaboration and learning through mentoring, pairing, knowledge management

• Iterating through Plan -> Do->Check->Act (PDCA) cycles for course corrections, as required

Effective deployment of Kanban / TOC led to 62% reduction in effort per ticket, 83.4 % increase in throughput for back office tickets and 30 – 35% reduction in average cycle time. Cost of delivery was reduced from 36.8% to 25.1%. There were savings of 1.33 mn USD for the customer from the improvements made and sustained.

Lean levers helped derive significant competitive advantage by maximizing program goals, inculcating a culture of continuous improvement leading to high employee engagement through better work-life balance and high customer satisfaction.


Outline/Structure of the Case Study

Introduction to Kanban / TOC - 2 mins

Project context / challenges - 3 mins

Implementation approach - 3 mins

On the ground -"How" of the implementation and Bottlenecks surfaced and resolved - 7 mins

Benefits / Outcomes - 2 minutes

Q&A - 3- 5 minutes

Learning Outcome

Basic understanding of Kanban and TOC
Relevance - What and how of applying Kanban / TOC
Simplicity and power of work flow visualization
Strategies to improve flow by identifying and resolving bottlenecks in a software project context
Team / business benefits (cycle time reduction / throughput improvement) that could accrue from the implementation

Target Audience

Anybody who is interested in lean,Kanban implementation

schedule Submitted 5 years ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker
  • Prasad
    By Prasad  ~  5 years ago
    reply Reply


    Quite intersting, looking forward for the session..Iit will be of great learning for the community, if you can mention the engineeirng, tools dimension which was specific to the case..


    • Balaji Ganesh N
      By Balaji Ganesh N  ~  5 years ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks for the feedback, Prasad.

      Have taken note of your comments.

      Happy new year.

  • Tathagat Varma
    By Tathagat Varma  ~  5 years ago
    reply Reply

    I like some of the data points you have measured. I hope you can talk about the same in your presentation, especially in terms of atttibuting the causes that led to such improvement.


    • Balaji Ganesh N
      By Balaji Ganesh N  ~  5 years ago
      reply Reply

      Yes. Tathgat.

      I can definitely bring out the causes that led to the improvements highlighted.

      Thanks a lot for your feedback.

  • Joel Tosi
    By Joel Tosi  ~  5 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Balaji,

        The first few paragraphs of your submission talk about employee engagement but then I see little mention of it, and no ties to it in the learning outcomes.  If there is a connection or intended learning there, could you please call it out?  Your submission would be a little clearer perhaps without the employee engagement aspect?  What do you think?



    • Balaji Ganesh N
      By Balaji Ganesh N  ~  5 years ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks for your feedback, Joel.

      I have incorporated the essential changes in the introductory paragraph to establish the connect with the latter half of the proposal.

  • Vijayanand Nagaraj
    By Vijayanand Nagaraj  ~  5 years ago
    reply Reply

    Dear Balaji,

    Wow! a very good topic and a very well written abstract. I definitely look forward for your case study.

    For such an engrossing talk, the audience would want to understand very well the challenges & implementation approach. However, I felt the time allocated per sub section is in-sufficient. The talk could be extended to 30min. What is your assessment? 

    • Balaji Ganesh N
      By Balaji Ganesh N  ~  5 years ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks for your encouraging feedback, Vijay.

      Do agree that 30 minutes would help to get in-depth on the implementation approach.