Kanban Pizza Game

kanban pizza game

Pizza time! Nothing better than a couple of pizza’s and good company to have some quality time and laughs together. And in this case, we will create some pizza’s in order to teach the lean principles. In particular Kanban.

Who has not have eaten a pizza yet? Everyone knows how a pizza look like and how it is made. This makes that the process is easily understood by all the participants.

After the game you should be able to transfer the lessons learned to your own working environment.

 So, let’s start and cook some pizza’s!


You will need the following materials for the Kanban pizza game:

  • White or yellow paper (this will represent the dough from which you will make the slices)
  • Red markers (this will represent the tomato sauce)
  • Green/yellow/pink post-its (this represent the toppings: Rocket, pineapple and ham)
  • Scissors (2 per team)
  • Masking tape (1 roll per team)

Rules and gameplay

You can play the Kanban pizza game with only one group. But it is more fun if you divide the group in teams of minimum four people and have a little competition. The teams should be evenly distributed. If not, you can asked the extra persons to assist in quality control.

At the start each team gets paper of different colours, red markers, 2 scissors and the masking tape.

The team have to create pizza slices according to customer need. They will cut of the bottom, colour in the tomato sauce, cut out the toppings, and place them om the slice. Then the pizza has to go on a pizza oven plate (A4 or letter paper). There can only be three pizza slices on the oven plate. And only one oven plate in the oven. The baking time should be at least 30 seconds.  You cannot add or remove pizza slices during the baking process or you will burn your hands 😉.

In the original game there are no clear quality requirements for the pizza slice, but I prefer to specify them. The drawings below show the dimensions.  The toppings and slices should have straights cuts (no ripping it apart with the hands).

kanban pizza game
kanban pizza game

Please note that The tomato sauce has to covers the pizza bottom completely (except for the crust) and the toppings are distributed equally across the pizza. Just like a real delicious pizza.

Each round the team has to try to produce as many as possible slices and avoid in the process of baking slices to produce unused topping and bottoms (work in progress in other words).

In order to reward baking pizza slices without creating waste the following scoring system will be used:

  • Pizza bottom without sauce: – 4 points
  • Pizza bottom with sauce: -5 points
  • Toppings: -1 point/each
  • Rejected pizza slice: - 10 points
  • Approved finished pizza slice: + 10 points

Make sure the team understand the scoring system of the Kanban pizza game before starting the first round.

Reference round

During the reference round the teams have to create as much Hawaiian pizza slices as possible.  A pizza Hawaiian slice is mad by cutting a triangle out of the white or yellow “dough paper”. Colouring in the tomato sauce with the red marker and add three pink post-its toppings which represent the ham. And three yellow post-its toppings which represent the pineapple.

The team should be aware that they have to try to eliminate as much as possible unused toppings and bottoms.

The first round stops after 5 to 7 minutes.  It is important that you do not use a fixed amount of time.  If the team knows when the round stop, they will slow down the production of toppings and bottoms to make sure that there is not much waste left at the end of the round.

Count the score per team.  Calculate the score per minute played.

Write down the score and score per minute on a white board.

Second round – introducing Kanban

In the second round we will introduce Kanban to improve.

First, we will have to visualize the workflow. Create with tape, paper pen, scissors, … work in progress (WIP) station for each work post. Based on our experience from the first round we have to define the maximum number of materials the Kanban should hold. Where did material pile up during the first round? Which step was the bottleneck? Decide together what a sensible maximum amount would be per work step considering the scoring system.

Note that there will be two more rounds so don’t worry too much on optimizing the work flow.

Now we are ready to start the second round. Finished pizza slices have to be removed but the raw materials from the first round can be kept (considering the maximum amount per Kanban).

Play the second round again from somewhere between 5 and 7 minutes.

Count the score per team.  Calculate the score per minute played.

Write down the score and score per minute on a white board.

Discuss how the second round went. What went well, what went wrong?

Third round – introducing variation

In the third round we will introduce variation by introducing new pizza recipes.

Pizza Rocket contains 7 pieces of Rocket

Pizza Parma contains 3 pieces of ham and 3 pieces of Rocket

Pizza Hawaii contains 3 pieces of ham and 3 pieces of pineapple (as already know)

The rocket should not be baked in the oven. Therefore, it has to be added after the pizza passed through the oven.

Customers can order multiple pizzas. The scoring system remains the same but points can only be given after an order has been finished.

Create a central point where the team can pick up order and deliver the finished orders. The team can pick multiple orders at once (but they cannot pick all orders if you play with multiple teams).

You can write down the orders on sticky notes.  I write them down as follow “1 x R, 2 x P, 1 x H” which means 1 Pizza Rocket, 2 Pizza’s Parma and 1 Pizza Hawaii.

You can write them down upfront or invent them on the spot. Pick randomly between 1 to 5 pizzas. Don’t order always the 3 types of Pizza. For example: 1 x R + 2 x P, 3 x H, 1 x R + 1 x H, ....

You can hand out the orders yourself or let another trainee do it when you have uneven teams.

Play the third round again from somewhere between 5 and 7 minutes.

Count the score per team.  Calculate the score per minute played.

Write down the score and score per minute on a white board.

Discuss how the third round went. What went well, what went wrong?

Fourth round – striving for perfection

There will be no new extension in round 4! Round 4 is all about optimizing the workflow based on the lesson learned from round 3.

Give the team some time to discuss and implement their improvements.

And again, Play the fourth round again from somewhere between 5 and 7 minutes.

Count the score per team.  Calculate the score per minute played.

Write down the score and score per minute on a white board.

Discuss how the final round went. What went well, what went wrong?

How did Kanban help the team to improve?

What did they learn from the Kanban pizza game?


The total Kanban pizza game will take 2:30 hours. Hereunder you can find a more detailed breakdown:

  • Explanation + team set-up: 20 min
  • Reference round: 15 min
  • Team discussion + Round 1: 30 min
  • Team discussion + Round 2: 30 min
  • Team discussion + Round 3: 30 min
  • Wrap-up: 25 min

Lessons Learned

The following points can be taken away from the Kanban pizza game:

  • Kanban is easy to implement
  • Kanban offers better visibility of the workflow
  • Kanban can help you to reduce the work in progress (WIP)
  • Kanban prevents team overburden
  • Kanban helps to manage the flow
  • Kanban limits communication to the minimum.
  • Kanban facilitates the collaboration
  • Kanban implements feedback loops


The Kanban pizza game has been developed by agile42 and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Shortly, it means that you can use the Kanban pizza game for free. But, you can’t resell it and you are required to share any modification you do to the Kanban pizza game with the same license format.