Blockers: Kanban Explained

Kanban is a popular methodology for managing workflows and increasing efficiency. It is widely used in software development, manufacturing, and other industries. One of the key concepts in Kanban is the idea of blockers. This article will explain what blockers are, how they can impact workflow, and strategies for managing them.

Blockers in Kanban

Blockers are any issues or obstacles that prevent work from progressing through the workflow. These can be caused by a wide range of factors, including technical challenges, resource constraints, or interpersonal conflicts.

Identifying Blockers

The first step in managing blockers is to identify them. This requires clear communication and collaboration within the team to understand where work is getting stuck and why.

One way to identify blockers is to hold regular team meetings where each member can share any issues or challenges they are facing. This can help to surface any blockers that may not have been immediately apparent and allow the team to work together to find solutions.

Another method is to use a visual management tool, such as a Kanban board, to track the progress of work items. This can help to identify any items that have been stuck in a particular stage of the workflow for an extended period, indicating a potential blocker.

Read more on how to identify blockers.

Common Types of Blockers

Common types of blockers include missing or incomplete information, technical challenges, dependencies on other teams or projects, and interpersonal conflicts within the team.

Missing or incomplete information can be a significant blocker, particularly in complex projects that require input from multiple stakeholders. It can lead to delays as team members are unable to move forward with their work until they have the necessary information.

Technical challenges can also be a significant blocker, particularly in projects that involve new or unfamiliar technologies. These challenges can be time-consuming to overcome and may require additional resources or expertise.

Dependencies on other teams or projects can also cause blockers, particularly when those teams or projects are outside of the team's control. For example, if a team is waiting for a third-party vendor to deliver a critical component, delays in that delivery can cause blockers within the team's workflow.

Interpersonal conflicts within the team can also be a significant blocker, particularly if they are not addressed early on. These conflicts can lead to a breakdown in communication and collaboration, making it difficult for the team to work together effectively.

The Impact of Blockers on Workflow

Blockers can have a significant impact on workflow, causing delays, reducing productivity, and increasing frustration and stress within the team. They can also impact customer satisfaction and increase costs.

Delays caused by blockers can lead to missed deadlines, which can impact customer satisfaction and result in additional costs for the team. Reduced productivity can also impact the team's ability to deliver high-quality work, which can further impact customer satisfaction and increase costs over time.

Frustration and stress within the team can also lead to increased turnover and decreased morale, which can further impact productivity and increase costs for the team.

Overall, it is essential to identify and manage blockers effectively to ensure that the team can work together efficiently and deliver high-quality work on time and within budget.

Strategies for Managing Blockers

Blockers can be a major obstacle for any team, but there are many strategies that teams can use to manage blockers and keep their workflows moving smoothly. By taking a proactive approach and implementing effective strategies, teams can minimize the impact of blockers and ensure that they don't impede progress.

Prioritizing and Resolving Blockers

The first step in managing blockers is to prioritize and resolve them as quickly as possible. This may involve allocating additional resources to the task, altering the workflow to work around the issue, or working collaboratively to find a solution. It's important to identify the root cause of the blocker and address it directly to prevent it from recurring in the future. By prioritizing and resolving blockers in a timely manner, teams can minimize the impact on the workflow and keep progress moving forward.

Collaborative Problem Solving

Collaborative problem-solving is essential for managing blockers effectively. This involves bringing together team members with different perspectives to identify and resolve issues more effectively. By working together, team members can leverage each other's strengths and knowledge to find creative solutions to blockers. This approach can also help to build trust and cohesion within the team, which can lead to more effective collaboration in the future.

Continuous Improvement and Learning

Finally, it's important to continuously learn and improve as a team. This may involve using retrospectives to reflect on the workflow and identify areas for improvement, or actively seeking out feedback from team members and customers. By continuously learning and improving, teams can stay ahead of blockers and other obstacles that may arise, and ensure that their workflows are as efficient and effective as possible.

In conclusion, managing blockers is an essential skill for any team. By prioritizing and resolving blockers quickly, using collaborative problem-solving techniques, and continuously learning and improving, teams can minimize the impact of blockers and keep their workflows moving smoothly.


Blockers can be a significant challenge for teams using Kanban. However, by prioritizing communication and collaboration, and adopting effective problem-solving strategies, teams can overcome these obstacles and keep their workflows running smoothly. Remember, blockers are opportunities for improvements!

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