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Kanban is not your process

The explosive growth of the Kanban community and the buzz surrounding it has given raise to a steady stream of questions regarding its relation to other approaches and tools. Many with agile backgrounds expect to find a highly opinionated & pre-packaged methodology akin to Scrum, XP or the Crystal family. The profusion of “Scrum vs Kanban” themed blogs and discussions perpetuates such beliefs often missing some of the fundamental flaws in the comparison. It is inherently an apples to oranges type of comparison that can be illustrated with the following core properties:

Kanban is not your process – it’s part of your process & a meta process for improvement and guided evolution. Once a process (even an ad-hoc seat of the pants one) has been established applying Kanban to that process will help guide the further evolution and tailoring to your context.
You can’t start with Kanban – you need a process to apply it to. If you’re starting from a clean slate many good well understood & tried processes exist The Crystal family, XP & Scrum for agile folks, RUP, PROPS and others for those that must. Kanban really doesn’t care.
Kanban doesn’t care if you have lunch – the relative merit of roles & procedures does not make them part of Kanban. Kanban doesn’t prescribe roles or organizational design but guides your discovery in context
How Kanban guides evolutionary change leading to revolutionary results

Each of these points will be illustrated by a ~10minute slice with the aim to establish the main point and a short discussion on how that relates to other well known processes and why and when comparison makes more or less sense.

Kanban is not your process

  1. 1. Kanban is not your process (Let me tell you why)
  2. 2. Torbjörn ”Tobbe”
  3. 3. Kanban hipsters beware!”It’s nice seeing someone willing to act as counterbalance to the Kanban geeks”- Name witheld, private communication
  4. 4. ”We used to do ’X’, but now we do Kanban”Perhaps the most pervasive missunderstanding in the community right now.
  5. 5. I used to drive to work, but now I pursue ahealthy lifestyleInteresting. Says little about how you get to work, semantically broken
  6. 6. Some required contextWhat’s Kanban?
  7. 7. Key distinctions• The Kanban method• The Kanban community• kanban systems
  8. 8. The Kanban method• Start with what you do know• Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change• Initially, respect the current process, roles, responsibilities & job titles
  9. 9. Kanban core practices1) Visualize2) Limit WIP3) Manage flow4) Make policies explicit5) Improve collaborativly
  10. 10. Kanban is self-similar• Personal Kanban• Team level• Project level• Enterprise portfolio management• ...
  11. 11. "doing Kanban means using a kanban system as part of a process tocontrol muri [uneven flow], mura [overburdening]& stimulateevolutionary change”– David J. Anderson
  12. 12. Guided improvementKanban as your meta process
  13. 13. Visualization• Encourage shared understanding
  14. 14. Limit work in process• Adds stress to the system• Surfaces problems"Is it really economical to provide more information than we need - morequickly than we need it?“– Taiichi Ohno
  15. 15. Manage flow• Aligns local improvements with system level goals• Helps avoid sub optimization
  16. 16. Improve collaborativly• Run experiments• Measure results• Standardize on real improvements
  17. 17. Make policies explicit• Visualized decision process• Makes tacit knowledge explict• Liberates everyone to think in context
  18. 18. ”Kanban is like getting a shrink for your process”– Jan Olofsson
  19. 19. You can’t start with Kanban
  20. 20. The power & peril of naming things”If you give it a name then managers will think it comes in a box”– John Seddon (inventor of the Vanguard method)
  21. 21. Kanban & new teams• Pick a process• Overlay it with Kanban
  22. 22. Kanban & existing teams• Start with what you do (k)now• Make it explicit• Design experiments to learn
  23. 23. Depth of implementation• Just a splash of Kanban can go a long way
  24. 24. Kanban doesn’t care if you have lunch
  25. 25. What does Kanban say about ’X’• Mostly diddly-squat• The community has tons of experience to share though
  26. 26. But I find practice or role ’X’ really helpful!• Coach• Scrum Master• Product Owner• Test Lead• Pair Programming• Test Driven Development• ...I find having LUNCH really beneficial
  27. 27. What Kanban does say is ...• Start with what you have, existing roles & workflow• Improve collaborativlyCo-create experiments tailored to your context!
  28. 28. Discover improvements• Support teams in finding & executing improvement initatives• Avoid imposing policies on them
  29. 29. Kanban & evolution
  30. 30. Why evolution?• Evolution is effective, but not particularly efficent
  31. 31. But isn’t efficiency important?”There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be doneat all”– Peter Drucker
  32. 32. Orgel’s second rule”Evolution is cleverer than you are.”–Leslie Orgel (evolutionary biologist )
  33. 33. Return of the quality guru”It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of a specific activity ormethod.”–W. Edwards Deming
  34. 34. Complicated, but can you do complex?”We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!”– Donella Meadows
  35. 35. Kanban is process evolution• You derserve a context specific solution• Pull improvement from those best informed• Assume you don’t understand the problem• Be prepared to be surprised & delighted
  36. 36. Thanks!