Agile Project Management with Kanban

Corey Ladas is not very active on social media (like Twitter, where he is @corey_ladas). So the joy is even greater when he writes something, like this tweet where he recommended ”Agile Project Management with Kanban” written by Eric Brechner sharing his experiences from using Kanban in Xbox development at Microsoft. I bought the book immediately after I saw the tweet since I’m both into project management and Kanban! The book was released in March 2015, and describes Eric Brechner’s four years of using Kanban. The question is, did the book fit me like a glove?

””Agile

Content

Looking in the table of content, the book has nine chapters and they are:

  1. Getting management consent
  2. Kanban quick-start guide
  3. Hitting deadlines
  4. Adapting from Waterfall
  5. Evolving from Scrum
  6. Deploying components, apps, and services
  7. Using Kanban within large organizations
  8. Sustained engineering
  9. Further resources and beyond

The first chapter describes an open letter to your manager that you can use to get your team started with Kanban to manage its project work. Next chapter is a quick-start guide how you get the kanban board up and running. For example ”completion rules” are mentioned, a check-list on what needs to be done before moving a sticky to the next column on the board. However, as mentioned ”The rules work only when team members hold each other accountable for following them”. A formula on how to calculate WIP and how to run good daily standup meetings are also present in this chapter.

Chapter 3, ”Hitting deadlines” starts with talking about MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It’s described as ”MVP is the set of work items (note cards) in your backlog that must be completed before release”. Here is how the backlog should be prioritized:

  • Must have – MVP, sometimes called ”pri 0”
  • Should have – Priority 1
  • Like to have – Priority 2
  • Nice ideas – Priority 3

Now it starts to get interesting, to be able to give expected completion dates the following things are tracked:

  • Task Completion Rate (TCR) – Track tasks completed per day
  • Current Task Estimate (CTE) – Total number of active and pending tasks (i.e. represents remaining work)
  • Task Add Rate (TAR) – Tasks added per day

Needless to say, if your TAR is constantly higher than your TCR you will never complete your project.

Chapter 4 is relevant if you are adapting to Kanban and are coming from Waterfall. Since this was not the case for us, I didn’t pay special attention to this chapter. However, if you need it, there is a ”Rude Q & A”-section at the end that shall arm you with answers to tricky questions from waterfall team members 🙂

Next chapter, ”Evolving from Scrum” was more appealing to me. Here it is described how to conduct the much easier transition from Scrum to Kanban. Mappings of roles and events (meetings) are suggested. Also this chapter, ends with an ”Rude Q & A”-section.

Chapter 6 covers deploying (among other things continuous integration and continuous deployment) and chapter 7 is about using Kanban in large organizations (upfront planning, status communication and handling dependencies). A particular interest concept of creating fakes is described to handle late dependencies. A fake is ”intentionally incomplete and unsophisticated – it contains just enough functionality for you to validate your key scenarios and components and unblock the teams that depend on you”.

”Sustained engineering” (SE) is a special contribution chapter from James Waletzky and how Kanban fits into SE is described. Last chapter provides references to litteratur to go further with Kanban. I’d like to end with a quote from the author on why Kanban works:

”Why does Kanban work so well? It’s a combination of visualization, minimalism, Little’s Law, single-piece flow, the theory of constraints, and drum-buffer-rope.” – Eric Brechner

Recommendation

Yes, the glove fit to a perfect match! This book was really spot on for me. If you are into project management and Kanban this is a true gem! The length is perfect for an agile book, 160 pages.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

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