Kanban in Action

In just a moment this will be a book review of ”Kanban in Action” by Marcus Hammarberg and Joakim Sundén, but first I must tell you a story.



I’ve been working with Agile methods since 2008, starting out with Scrum, and sometimes I think that I’ve got a pretty good hang of it during the years. I’ve got some recognition for my increasing knowledge in the area by my co-workers, but nothing whatsoever from my boss. I’ve struggled along for sure, but that one piece of recognition have been missing…

I’ve read books about Kanban before I started to read ”Kanban in Action”, but with this book my knowledge took a gigantic step! I was sitting in a meeting with my boss and some other colleagues, talking about Kanban versus other methods for software development, when all of a sudden my manager turned to me and said: ”What are your thoughts on this, Tomas? You are our expert in this area!”. Yes, what a feeling, my boss had never mentioned my name and the word expert in the same sentence before :).


The book was released March 17, 2014, and it’s divided into three sections:

  • Part 1 – Learning Kanban
  • Part 2 – Understanding Kanban
  • Part 3 – Advanced Kanban

The first part, Learning Kanban, includes only one chapter, but what a chapter it is! It is 44 pages jam packed with just about everything you need to know to get started with Kanban. In fact you can stop reading the book just after this and still be very satisfied. The idea of explaining Kanban by using the fictive story about the Kanbaneros team is nothing but brilliant! There is no way I will go about and spoil this future reading for you, but I will give you my personal best take way from this part and that is: ”Stop starting, start finishing”. To me those four words sums it all up, to constantly think about flow through your process, to complete things before you start new to not clog the system.

”What now, didn’t you say that the reading could end after the first chapter?”, you might ask. Hold on, now comes the beauty of it, if you hunger for more there is plenty left to learn in part 2 and 3 (if you want to become an expert, remember 🙂 ).

Part 2 – Understanding Kanban, rewinds back to the beginning once more and goes through the cornerstones of Kanban, they are:

  • Kanban principles
  • Visualizing your work
  • Work items
  • Work in process
  • Limiting work in process (WIP)
  • Managing flow

One very specific text in this part is ”How to remove a sticky note from the pack”. It’s exactly what is sounds like! This really tells you how serious Joakim and Marcus are in their pursuit to explain Kanban in this book!

Advanced Kanban, the final part, goes even deeper into the kingdom of Kanban. Here you find things like:

  • Classes of service
  • Planning and estimating
  • Process improvement
  • Using metrics to guide improvements
  • Kanban pitfalls
  • Teaching kanban through games

A lot of good stuff, in which I can really recommend the last chapter about games. We have played both ”Pass the pennies” and ”The number multitasking game”. Those games will give all participants a deeper understanding in Kanban principles (in this case ”limiting WIP” and ”avoid multitasking” to be specific).


Today when I searched for ”kanban” on amazon.com and the list was sorted by relevance,  ”Kanban in Action” was the second book that came up. Only beaten by ”Kanban” (or ”the blue book” as it’s also called) written by David J. Anderson, the ”father” of Kanban. This itself tells you how important this book is.

I can truly recommend ”Kanban in Action” to anyone that wants to know just the slightest bit about managing knowledge work. From the first moment I started reading it, this has been my holy bible of Kanban!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist


  1. So happy to read this review Tomas! Thank you so much!

    And so happy to see the book giving even you, a seasoned agileist, some new insights. Great also to hear that you put that into practices and get noticed and appreciated for it at work.

    Keep looking for better! Happy kanbaning!


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