Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business Paperback – Apr 7 2010
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About the Author
David J. Anderson leads a management consulting firm focused on improving performance of technology companies. He has been in software development nearly 30 years and has managed teams on agile software development projects at Sprint, Motorola, Microsoft, and Corbis. David is credited with the first implementation of a kanban process for software development, in 2005. David was a founder of the Agile movement through his involvement in the creation of Feature Driven Development. He was also a founder of the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN), a founding signatory of the Declaration of Interdependence, and a founding member of the Lean Software and Systems Consortium. He moderates several online communities for lean/agile development. He is the author of Agile Management for Software Engineering: Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results. Most recently, David has been focused on creating a synergy of the CMMI model for organizational maturity with Agile and Lean methods through projects with Microsoft and the SEI. He is a co-author of the SEI’s Technical Note “CMMI and Agile: Why not Embrace Both!” He is based in Sequim, Washington, USA.
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Starting as early as the foreword, there are great takeaways in every section of this book which is a very quick read. I will admit that I skimmed some of the software development segments because that's not what I do, but here's a breakout by some of the early chapters:
FOREWORD - the notion of the importance of batch size is vital when looking at organizational constraints. It's something Goldratt never addressed in the initial Theory of Constraints, but it's a great point. There's a lot more about that as the book moves along, but it's a great first point.
CHAPTER ONE - Context is vital when identifying organizational constraints. If someone goes into a meeting and points out that something is constraining the organization, even if they may be right, the other people in the room may have a different context and dismiss the newly identified constraint. Chapter one also goes into good depth about seeing that no two projects or teams are the same, and that there are specific, quantifiable risks in how you compare them.
CHAPTER TWO - Here is one of two chapters where Anderson does a great job of stepping outside of the work environment to explain that the notion of kanban, which literally means signal cards to indicate when it's OK to proceed with work, applies to lots of situations in the outside world, and his example of the cards they hand out to entrants to a park in Japan, and then collect when they leave, as a very simple and low cost way of managing the attendance capacity of the park. With such a clear example, the core idea of kanban, Anderson ensures that the reader understands one of the most basic ideas of the book.
CHAPTER THREE - This is where the book starts to get really quantitative about measuring and optimizing the throughput of work, and here's where Anderson gets into one of the other core ideas of the book which is to limit and manage the amount of work in progress (WIP). As he points out (graphically) there is a linear relationship between WIP and average lead time, which he explains very clearly. The other big point he makes in this chapter is that there is a non-linear relationship between defects and the quantity of WIP, which means the more WIP, the higher the defect rate.
CHAPTER 11 - After several chapters about continuous improvement, how you go about limiting WIP, and more software development related cycles (which broadly still apply to non-tech people as well in terms of managing efficiency), Anderson then gets into a subject that I think is vital, which is identifying the Class-of-Service definitions for objects of work, which include Expedite, Fixed Delivery Date, Standard Class, and Intangible (which he admits is probably not the best word for it), and in my experience it is so important to have those sorts of definitions attached to blocks of work, I am confident that I will use them as he defines them. While he does talk about process definition and how you need to make processes strict and policy based, I happen to think those belong more in the realm of business architecture because business capabilities as artifacts are so much more durable than processes (as defined in the classic Hammer & Champy model).
There's a lot more in this book, but it's so clear and so well written I think a lot of business people, as well as technology people can learn a lot from this book and start applying it to their work immediately.
I've read the paperback version of the book first than decided to buy the Kindle version. The picture quality was not daunting in the paper version either, but in the Kindle book the pictures are useless. The picture format is jpeg and it has color information too, which adds up to space required and has no added value on the grayscale display. The text is unreadable on the pictures as jpeg is the worst lossy format for this purpose.
The books contents is superb. The practical advice in the book helps in implementing your own Kanban. The theoretical background is strong and empowers the reader to dive in the cited literature on the field of SPC (statistical process control) and on other highlighted topics in the body of knowledge of management.
The only problem I've found is the poor quality of pictures in the Kindle version. Hope it will get fixed!
Covering the mechanics, dynamics, principles and rationale behind why Kanban is a so promising framework for managing the work of a variety of teams and groups and being an evolutionary-based change management driver.
Kanban is the practical approach to implement Lean Software Development, and this book is the practical guide for how to start using Kanban, and how to adapt the system for advanced needs.
The book is clear and flowing, even though it covers some quite technical material. I would recommend it to Development managers, Project/Program managers, Agile Coaches/Consultants. It addresses concerns/needs of Novice as well as those already familiar with Kanban and looking for advanced answers.
Even if you don't intend to implement a kanban system, there are a lot of techniques and ideas that are easily applicable to any product development/maintenance environment, agile or not.
Bottom line, highly recommended.
I've not been disappointed. Kanban is a readable and balanced book which introduces the Kanban method of bringing improvement and change to organizations. It is well written (better than his previous book, IMHO) and well-argued with many cases from David's own experience and from other people in the growing Kanban community. It is and will probably stay the definitive reference for the SW Kanban method.
The book consists of four parts. The first part is a short introduction to the subject. The second part is called "benefits of Kanban," but it better describes its history (from David's perspective). The third part is more of less a description of the Kanban method itself (called "implementing Kanban") and the last part contains several background improvement theories which the reader ought to know about when implementing Kanban.
Part two is called "benefits of Kanban" and is more or less a history of how Kanban has evolved. Chapter three is what the author calls "the recipe of success" and its David's opinion on what you need to do in order to build good and predictable software. I didn't like this chapter too much as it had a "just do this and everything will be ok" tone which I also found in his previous book. Chapter 4 introduces the work David has been done at Microsoft and how he improved a team without changing the process but by managing the WIP, an interesting story. Chapter 5 described David's work at Corbis where he continued his earlier Microsoft experiences and extended (or actually created) SW Kanban.
Part three describes the different aspects of Kanban. It starts with analyzing the existing processes, visualize it and then decide the boundaries of what is inside the Kanban scope and what is considered the outside world. The "outside world" works with the Kanban team based on SLA and releases based on a steady cadence (chapter 8 and 9). From chapter 12 the book covers less known Kanban topics such as classes of service, different reporting, scaling and operational reviews. Chapter 15 is then the actual "implementing Kanban" that suggests how you can move forward and implement these ideas in practice.
Part four covers broadly said three different improvement models: Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Deming. Each chapter provides a minimum introduction into the subject and suggests the reader to use these different models for making the gradual improvements in their processes. Chapter 20, the last chapter, discusses handling obstacles that need to be resolved quickly in order to make improvements.
There were a couple of things I liked a lot about this book... and a couple of things I didn't like and disagreed with the author. One of the things I disagreed with was the hidden suggestion that the problem of building quality software has been a solved problem. I got this feeling from the way he mentions things like professional testers, CMMi as obvious and barely covers e.g. integration. The book contains very little (nothing) about the actual development of software. But, as this isn't the main topic of the book, it doesn't matter that much... The thing that did bothered me was the suggestion that all works flows sequentially and that one activity has one purpose. I got this feeling from the way e.g. analysis topics were handled or how the last chapters talked about an activity being waste or not... for example estimation. Though, I agree that estimation might/might not be waste, during the process of estimating there is often requirement discovery ongoing, which is very valuable. However the side-effect of activities wasn't covered well and, I felt, it was assume that activities have one purpose and flow sequentially. That said, it might not have been the author's intention and just my sensitivity to this.
Then, the things I liked a lot about the book. One thing I really liked is how David positioned Kanban not as a SW development method but as an incremental (evolutionary) improvement paradigm. This book definitively challenged my own assumptions about change and how change ought to happen. Kanban tries to avoid change resistance by not making the change, visualizing the current processes and then making the change obvious to the people involved. I do think it has some drawbacks, but definitively like the approach. This message isn't given at one particular point, but it is the common theme of the book and of the Kanban method. Well thought of and also... well written. Another things I liked about the book is how David constantly refers back to his own experiences. This is not a book that says "hey, I got an idea, lets try this", but its a book where the author reflects on his history (together with the reader) and uses that to explain how he got to certain conclusions. Well done.
All in all, this book will definitively be the standard reference for Kanban. I was thinking between a four and a five star rating. I decided to go with four stars for the couple of things I didn't like. Anyways, definitively recommended for anyone who wants to know more about SW Kanban.
The book is well written and useful for my work.
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