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Kanban Replenishment 101

As a product manager, you know that when the time comes to hit that replenishment commitment point and plan your Kanban meeting, you can’t even think about brushing it off. 

The replenishment meeting isn’t just another “gathering that could have been an email.” It’s pivotal to keep your project’s pulse steady and ensure everything in your pipeline keeps moving like clockwork.

Staying ahead of the game with Kanban replenishment cements what your team does with those lofty business goals you’re all aiming for, turning them into real results everyone can see (and high-five over).

Here’s the essentials we’ll be covering:

  • What It Is: Think of it less as shuffling tasks around and more like making sure everyone is moving in the same direction.
  • When It Happens: Time these sessions so they tweak your team’s output when it actually makes a difference.
  • Maximizing Impact: Push for decisions backed by solid data and walk away with action items that won’t collect dust on a shelf.

What is Kanban Replenishment?

Kanban replenishment is about smartly restocking your team’s pipeline with tasks that are ready to go. It keeps the workflow humming and prevents your production from stalling because there’s always something in line for execution. 

This pull strategy demands realistic commitments from the team, breeding a culture of joint decision-making.

Kanban replenishment ensures everyone knows exactly what each task entails before it even enters the queue. This attention to detail helps prevent project bottlenecks and keeps teams laser-focused on priorities.

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Here’s an important note on the process: No task should be moved into active territory without a clear set point where everyone involved agrees “it’s time.” 

This is generally referred to as the replenishment commitment point, which happens at the critical juncture between “Backlog” and “Tasks to Start.” So yes, you are technically shifting tasks around, but you’re doing so deliberately and skillfully.

How to Run a Kanban Replenishment Meeting?

We’re here to ensure our project is moving full steam ahead, not dragging its feet. A Kanban replenishment meeting isn’t about sitting around and zoning out. It’s where you roll up your sleeves and get your workflow sorted so that everything runs smoothly.

During this meeting, we address the current state of our pipeline by assessing what needs refilling. By closely aligning inventory levels with WIP limits, we can anticipate production needs and avoid bottlenecks.

It’s straightforward: Align stock levels with work-in-progress limits, identify bottlenecks promptly, and adjust allocations accordingly for an efficient production process.

Here’s how to get the most out of the Kanban replenishment meeting:

Step 1: Prepare the Groundwork, Know the Objective

Preparation is Key

Marching into a Kanban replenishment meeting without being prepared could derail the process faster than you can say “blocker.” 

Before setting foot in that room, make sure your information is razor-sharp and crystal clear. 

Every person involved should be on the same page about the project status and upcoming work items. Your Kanban board must reflect real-time progress with every task neatly sorted and current. 

This is crucial groundwork for a productive session where you can focus on decision-making instead of playing informational catch-up.

Step 2: Review Work In Progress

Check on Your Team’s Bandwidth

Kick off the meeting with a straightforward rundown of what your team is working on right now. It’s time to take stock and figure out what tasks are cruising through and which ones have hit a wall. 

Identify where things are jamming up or dragging their feet, then immediately dive into sorting it out. 

The goal here isn’t merely to push work through the pipeline. Our priority is ensuring that every task lives up to our quality benchmarks before we sign off on its progression.

This step is key for fine-tuning our process and keeping everything rolling smoothly. This isn’t so much a problem-spotting exercise; rather, you’re there to fix them so every task can glide through without a hiccup.

Step 3: Determine Replenishment Needs

Align Demand with Capacity

Time’s tight, and there’s work to be done. Go through your backlog with a fine-tooth comb.

You’re on the hunt for tasks that are ripe for moving into the ‘ready’ column of your Kanban board.

This isn’t guesswork. You’ll align team bandwidth with project requirements using robust data and input from stakeholders.

Nail this equilibrium, and you set up your squad not simply to keep busy but to make significant strides forward.

Step 4: Prioritize and Select Items

Tactical Decision Making

This is where product managers like us prove our worth. Take a hard look at your backlog and decide which items align best with what you need to achieve short term and the needs of your customers. 

It’s tempting to want to do it all, but reality check: That’s not going to happen. 

To effectively prioritize, rely on data-driven decisions instead of relying solely on intuition or the most vocal opinions.

Lean on proven methods like Weighted Shortest Job First or Cost of Delay if they’re part of your toolkit, and if not, whatever method works for you to help make sense of this puzzle.

Remember, keeping busy isn’t the goal, steering toward true progress is what we’re after here.

Step 5: Set Expectations and Assign Roles

Get Specific with Tasks and Timelines

This step is go time. And that means it’s all about clear-cut tasks and deadlines for your squad. 

No beating around the bush; tell each person what they’re on the hook for, and slap a due date on it. 

You want to avoid any confusion down the line because, let’s face it – “I thought you had this” is basically a famous last word in project management.

Product management is a game of strategy and data-driven decisions. Choose your priorities wisely, rooted in analytics over intuition or vocal opinions. Transparency is crucial, so confirm that each team member understands their responsibilities to prevent deviations from the project timeline. 

Ensure roles are clearly assigned before concluding any meeting. This fosters accountability, reduces redundancy in work efforts, and minimizes the risk of tasks slipping through the cracks.

Our goal is to establish well-defined targets for all team members, minimizing uncertainty as much as possible.

Step 6: Replenish the Kanban Board

Visual Management

Now that the team has hashed out the next moves, it’s showtime for your Kanban board. Here, you will be updating the Kanban board to reflect the latest details.

An updated board is key to making sure everyone stays in sync. It’s critical when you’re trying to avoid a workflow pile-up.

An updated Kanban board keeps us coordinated, helping us dodge bottlenecks in our processes. A current board directs focus, delineating task ownership without necessitating another meeting (and sparing us all from more calendar invites).

Prioritize those updates diligently, ensuring each entry provides direction for a smooth journey towards completion.

Step 7: Review and Close

Ensure Clarity and Commitment

Wrap up your Kanban replenishment meeting by going over the agile roadmap together with any commitments that have been made. 

Make sure to summarize crucial decisions and who’s responsible for what tasks. Having everyone on the same page when it comes down to taking action is the ideal outcome. 

This wrap-up is vital. Think of it as a final sweep for confusion or doubts, reinforcing that each person knows their part in pushing our project ahead smoothly according to plan. 

Let’s leave no room for guesswork, we want solid nods all around, signaling a green light from the team.

The PM’s Hot Take

Kanban replenishments are the heartbeat of our project life cycles. I like to think of them like the fuel level on a transatlantic flight – if you ignore it, skip it, or just postpone it, you’re going to crash. So make them a priority if you value the efficiency and productivity of you and your team.


Alright, let’s wrap this up. Mastering Kanban replenishment really boils down to having your ducks in a row, staying sharp with the latest data, and talking straight with your team. 

Stick to the playbook we’ve rolled out above, and you’ll see your team clicking along nicely. Priorities will be crystal clear, and resources won’t go to waste.

Hungry for more? Swing by the Fibery blog, where we’ve got a ton of insightful content on Kanban and Agile that’s been written by PMs just like you.

Consider this guide as step one in beefing up those product management muscles when it comes to refilling the ranks efficiently.


What is Kanban replenishment?

Think of Kanban replenishment as a way to keep the production gears moving without a hitch. It’s about spotting when your team can handle more work and adding new tasks accordingly so everyone keeps busy without overloading.

What is the difference between Kanban replenishment and refinement?

Replenishing your Kanban board means you’re tossing new tasks into the mix based on what your team can manage right now. 

Refinement? That’s giving those backlogged items a good once-over to make sure they’re crystal clear and doable before anyone dives in.

Do Kanban teams do backlog refinement?

Absolutely. Backlog refinement helps give every task its due importance and makes sure nobody has to guess what they should be doing next, meaning everything runs like clockwork.

Can Kanbans be replenished from an internal organization?

Yes, Kanban systems can be replenished from internal sources, depending on organizational needs and the specific configuration of the Kanban system.

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