Knock Out Waste in Your MSP- the 7 Kanban Wastes

Get ready to knock out waste in your MSP! For a long time manufacturers using Kanban have used the 7 Kanban Wastes to identify and eliminate waste in their processes. Did you know MSPs can use the same framework to eliminate waste in their processes?

Waste is the effort exerted in your MSP that isn’t appreciated by your customer- the work you do that doesn’t directly benefit him or her. Think of the difference between an incandescent light bulb and a LED light bulb- they both make the same amount of light, but the incandescent bulb also makes a lot of heat. Since the purpose of a light bulb is to provide light and not heat, the heat is waste. It’s the same for your customers; they value a solution to a problem, not all the effort you do just to manage their work.

Here are the 7 Kanban Wastes and examples of each in an MSP:


Moving items from one place to another where it doesn’t help the customer.

Helpdesk: Starting ticket with insufficient information, resulting in multiple back-and-forth between tech and customer- improve by using standard forms for common types of requests.

Project: All client communication going through project manager- improve by using direct communication between engineer and customer.


Holding more items than necessary at one time, in case they are needed in the future.

Helpdesk: Holding repair parts that are rarely used- improve by reducing time from ordering parts to arrival, making customers with hard-to-find parts keep their own repair stock (i.e. very specific hard disks for servers)

Project: Creating project tickets that won’t be done in next 3 months- improve by not making tickets for uncertain needs


Movements that are complicated or unnecessary.


  • Technician switching between multiple tickets at a time- improve by emphasizing finishing tickets instead of starting tickets so there’s less on the go at one time.
  • Organizing all work in a technician’s calendar (“paint your calendar green”)- improve by prioritizing work items and not scheduling them.
  • Regularly shifting individual tickets between multiple techs.

Project: Same as helpdesk.


Items that are unfinished because there’s no person or resource available to perform the work.

Helpdesk: Tickets assigned to a tech- started or not. (Note small-medium queues are OK; they prevent techs being idle.​)

Project: Same as helpdesk


Creating more of an item than your customer needs.


  • Failing to interpret customer’s real needs and doing exactly what they ask for- when a simpler solution could satisfy them.
  • Writing SOPs & filling forms that nobody actually uses.

Project: Detailed planning of project work that’s not expected to be done until well into the future- to improve, only do rough planning for work beyond a few weeks out.


Doing more work on an item than the customer needs.


  • Doing more investigation/fixing than is necessary to solve the immediate problem & root cause.
  • Responding with more detail than customer understands.

Project: Same as helpdesk


Faults in an item that need to be corrected before delivering to the customer.


  • Misunderstanding the reported problem/need.
  • Fixing problem partially or not at all.
  • Failing to tell customer when the problem is fixed.
  • Failure to triage according to process.
  • Dispatch to wrong tech.

Project: Same as helpdesk. Also unclear ticket scope leading to over/under-engineering.

Want to read more? Here are a few great resources:​


ConnectWise and Autotask MSPs get much better visibility into their work with Kanban boards. Want to see how how Kanban from TopLeft can help you? Get a demo.