Many people new to Kanban think it is a “go horse” method: one that you do whatever you want, without any planning, nor cadence, nor predictability. Those people couldn’t be more wrong! There are four practices that are mandatory in Kanban:
You must visualize your work and how you work, so that you can understand it and improve it. The most common method for visualization is a wall board with a map of all the states that your work items must pass, from concept to delivery.
You must measure and optimize your cycle time (or flow), which is the average time needed for a work item to go from your first state to your end state.
You must limit how much work can be at each state at any moment, so that you can improve your process, know your capacity and shorten your cycle time.
Explicit transition policies
You must define explicit transition policies between ALL your states. This ensures that everybody is following the same rules, thus making your process very clear and repeatable by everyone. Those policies include the famous “ready” and “done” policies from Scrum, as they usually map to the first and end transitions on a typical Kanban board.
So you cannot do whatever you want, because you have very explicit rules. You can have as many states as you see fit, so you can have a “planning” state, also. By measuring and optimizing your flow, you have cadence and predictability. So, no, Kanban is not go horse!