King of Kanban


I’ve seen that a poll function have been added to Twitter for quite some time now, but I haven’t tried it out. Until recently, when I used it to ”scientifically” (well…) investigate how common Kanban is.


You can always question a result of a poll. During the years I’ve written quite a lot about Kanban, and maybe therefore gained followers that are also into it. The ”sample size” (16 answers) may not be representative either. However, Kanban is used by more than half of the responders, so there must be a lot of usage and interest out there!

Before we start, I must admit that the title of this blog post is heavily inspired by the great documentary ”King of Kong”. It you haven’t seen it, and you are into retro-gaming, you must do!

Alright, do you want to become King of Kanban (or Queen for that matter)? Continue reading!


So how do you learn Kanban profoundly? There is a bunch of ways, and how you want to go about it, is mostly your personal taste, and how you pick up knowledge in the best possible way. You can for example read blog posts (maybe you have your own list of Kanban front-figures that you follow?), see videos from speeches (many conferences are very kind and publish them online afterwards), or look at presentations at Slideshare (that many use to share their material). Maybe I can come back and guide you in this arena in a later blog post, but for now I would like to focus on books, reading good old fashioned books!

Some years ago I made a challenge to myself. Search on for ”Kanban” in the books department, sort by relevance, and buy & read all books on the first page! I was about to make it, but I think you can guess what happened. The first page changed… So I had to buy and read more books. Nothing wrong in that, but my challenge could not be fulfilled. Now I’ve put that aside, and instead here is the list of books from Amazon that I have read and reviewed on this blog (the search referenced below on were performed May 14, 2017). In the headlines below – First is actual position in the listing, the title of the book and within parentheses the year it was released. Ok, so here we go!

King of Kanban – Books

#1 – Kanban (2010)

This is still, very rightly, the most relevant Kanban book, written by ”the father of Kanban” David J. Andersson back in 2010. Many books on Kanban have been released after this, but ”the blue book” still stands as the one must to read, if you want to learn about Kanban. As I wrote in my review: ”Is this the book about Kanban? Yes, it is. David J. Anderson is the undisputed king in Kanbanland.”

#2 – Real-World Kanban: Do Less, Accomplish More with Lean Thinking (2015)

This books holds four case studies in of improving using Kanban. I would go for this as a fist book if you want to learn Kanban, but when you have gained knowledge and want some tips to take Kanban further this is a good source of information. From my review: ”It’s always good to hear real-life stories, this is the most effective way to learn I think.”

#3  – Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life (2011)

Jim Benson (one of the authors of this book) worked together with David J. Anderson for a period of time. While most of the Kanban community focus on teams and larger, this book applies Kanban to your personal work, using only two of Kanban’s core practices: Visualize your work & Limit your Work-in-Progress (WIP). As I put in in my review: ”This book gets really personal about Kanban! I’ll recommend it to all knowledge workers that wants to get priority, productivity and efficiency into their work and personal life.”

#5 – Kanban in Action (2014)

This is my personal favourite amongst the books about Kanban! I’ve read it several times. It sort of changed how I see things, and even how people anticipate me, as you can read in the review that I end with: ”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!”.

#6 – Agile Project Management with Kanban (Developer Best Practices) (2015)

If you are into agile project management and Kanban (as I do), you don’t need to look any further. This is the book you should read! I’ve picked up quite a few tips from this book. From my review: ”If you are into project management and Kanban this is a true gem! The length is perfect for an agile book, 160 pages.”

#7 – Learning Agile: Understanding Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban (2014)

This is a book I only picked up, because of the challenge. It’s quite cumbersome and now as ”agile” I want a book about Agile to be. As I state in the review: ”If your are new to Agile, and have a lot of time to read, I can recommend this book to get more knowledge about Scrum, XP, Lean and Kanban. If you only want to know about a specific method, or have short of time, there are other more suitable books around.”

#9 – Kanban from the Inside: Understand the Kanban Method, connect it to what you already know, introduce it with impact (2014)

This books takes another angle into Kanban (than the other books), it uses nine values to introduce it. The nine values are: Transparency, Balance, Collaboration, Customer focus, Flow, Leadership, Understanding, Agreement and Respect. Actually, I met the author, Mike Burrows, at a conference and got my copy signed 🙂 . I end the review with the following: ”If you’re into Kanban you should definitely buy this book! I wish I’ve had it (and especially the knowledge from part III) when I implemented my first Kanban system.”

#11 – Essential Kanban Condensed (2016)

This is (to my knowledge) the newest book about Kanban. If you are totally new to Kanban, you may want to use this as a first starting point. Actually I end my review with: ”You should definitely read ’Essential Kanban Condensed’ if you want to get up to speed in what Kanban stands for and represents today (as of 2016).”

#13 – Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban (2011)

I read this book long before I started blogging so therefore I don’t have any blog post review of it. In this book Henrik Kniberg shares his learnings from the PUST (”Polisens mobila Utrednings STöd”)-project at the Swedish national police authority. Cross functional teams, ”Daily cocktail party” (with team- and sync-meetings) and the project board are for example described in this book. This book is a case study of a very successful project, however six years have passed, and things may be done differently nowadays.

#14 – Kanban in 30 Days (2015)

As hinted by the title, the chapters in this book are divided by days in in a fictive month (30 days) to learn and start using Kanban. It’s a nice angle, but there is no problem in reading the book from cover to cover (it has 106 pages). From my review: ”All in all, I was positively surprised by this book! It covers what you need to know to get Kanban stated and running.”

#19 – Kanban and Scrum – making the most of both (Enterprise Software Development) (2010)

This is the second book from Henrik Kniberg. His first (and the one that really started my Agile journey back in 2008) was ”Scrum and XP from the trenches”, my review of the second edition of this book can be found here. This book simply compares Kanban and Scrum. I’ve read this one also, before I started blogging.

#21 – The Scrumban [R]Evolution: Getting the Most Out of Agile, Scrum, and Lean Kanban  (2015)

This book covers a lot of topics, it has 384 pages! However, from my review: ”This book has good structure, well written texts and a lot of illustrating figures. However, I think the overall purpose, to explain Scrumban, gets lost when describing all the surrounding agile practices. Keeping it simple is a virtue.”

#22 – The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win (2013)

Compared to all the other books in this list, this one really stands out. It is a novel and the story starts when Bill Palmer gets promoted and become VP IT Operations at the company Parts Unlimited. The company is really struggling, and a gigantic project named Phoenix is launched in order to save Parts Unlimited. It’s not really a book about Kanban per say, but it is in there, from may review: ”A novel and the story presented in this book is a very pleasant and nice way to to learn new things. If you want to now more about DevOps I can really recommend this book!”


If you like reading books you should now have some ideas on what to read to become King (or Queen) of Kanban! Take care, and see you next time!

All the best,
Tomas from TheAgileist

Doing It

I first learned about Ralph van Roosmalen and his work when I participated in a video chat about ”Exploration Days”, hosted by Jurgen Appelo. Ralph is passionate about Management 3.0, and now he has written a book about his learnings called ”Doing It – Management 3.0 Experiences”. The book has 157 pages, with foreword by Jurgen Appelo, and was released in 2017.



The book consists of 13 chapters, and I thought that I should give you a short description to each and one of them.

1. Management 3.0? Huh, what?

Ralph starts out with setting the arena and tells what Management 3.0 is. In short: ”Management 3.0 is about engaging people, improving everything, and delighting the customers.” This short and to the point introduction also have references for more information.

2. What is the role of a Manager?

Management 3.0 highlights six areas for you as a manager to focus on:

  1. Energizing people
  2. Empowering teams
  3. Aligning constraints
  4. Developing competence
  5. Growing structure
  6. Improving everything

3. Move your Motivators

This chapter introduces The Moving Motivators game. This is connected to the first management area: energizing people. It has ten motivators (the CHAMPFROGS model):

  1. Curiosity
  2. Honor
  3. Acceptance
  4. Mastery
  5. Power
  6. Freedom
  7. Relatedness
  8. Order
  9. Goal
  10. Status

4. Surprise your team during their next review?

When it’s time for the review meeting, the first question you ask your team member is, “How are you doing?” They respond, “Er … good…” Then you say, “Okay, why good?” “Just good, you know … good.” Does this sound familiar?

Do you recognise yourself in the quote above? Then this chapter can help you make the review meeting fun again.

5. Traditional HR combined with Management 3.0

Here you will learn more about Delegation Boards. ”In short, just think of them as a spreadsheet that vertically lists the decision areas that you want to delegate to others, while the horizontal axis sets the amount of independence a team lead has.”

6. Implementing Cudo Cards

Next up is an introduction to Cudo Cards, a peer-to-peer rewarding system.

7. Visualise values and name your team

To get a team together you need to find the team values and then visualise them. Here you find concrete tips on how to do that.

8. Team 1 and Team 2, boring

Let the team themselves decide on their team name. Even better let them find a symbol that they can associate with the team! For example Yoda from Star Wars to symbolise mastery.

9. Getting your guilds going

Don’t feel guilty if you haven’t tried it out yet, but guilds are the thing! 🙂 Guilds to nurse craftsmanship is a common practice within Agile.

10. Things I learned about Exploration Days

You want learning and innovation to take place within your company, right? In this chapter the concept of Exploration Days are described.

11. Giving feedback without fear

Are you upset with a colleague? Don’t give them a slap, instead prepare for them a delicate feedback wrap! 🙂

12. I don’t want to implement the Spotify model!

Don’t imitate, innovate! This chapter tells you not to just copy a successful model without tailoring it to your context and unique needs.

13. To finish up

Time to wrap up! 🙂 Some last words from Ralph on where to go next.


If you are new to Management 3.0, ”Doing It” is the perfect starting point! Read the well-written introduction texts, and then use the references to go further. Do you want to try Management 3.0 out? Perfect, use this book to guide you. I can truly recommend ”Doing It – Management 3.0 Experiences”! Best of all? You can download the book right here. Happy reading, and see you next time!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist


In an old episode of Seinfeld it’s discussed and concluded that ”the switch” can’t be made (in this case meaning to switch a girlfriend for her roommate). The book ”Switch” tells another story, about making changes that last. This book is written by two brothers named Chip and Dan Heath. The subtitle is ”How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” and was released 2010.


”What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem” – Chip Heath & Dan Heath


The book consists of 11 chapters, divided into three sections, and they are:

1. The Surprises About Change

2. Find the Bright Spots
3. Script the Critical Moves
4. Point to the Destination

5. Find the Feeling
6. Shrink the Change
7. Grow Your People

8. Tweak the Environment
9. Build Habits
10. Rally the Herd

11. Keep the Switch Going

The first chapter is describing change, and mentions that to change someone’s behaviour, you’ve got to change that person’s situation. Wisdom from psychology says that the brain has two independent systems at work all the time. First, it’s the emotional side (instinctive, makes you feel pain or pleasure). Second, it’s the rational side, also known as the reflective or conscious system. If you want to change things you have to appeal to both sides! To use the vocabulary of this book: You have to speak both to the Rider and the Elephant. One other advice about change is that you have to provide crystal-clear direction.

The ”magic formula for change” boils down to the following:

  • Direct the Rider – What can look like resistance is often lack of clarity (give crystal-clear direction).
  • Motivate the Elephant – What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. You have to engage the emotional side.
  • Shape the path – The situation (including the surrounding environment) is called ”the path”.

How to find the bright-spots? Use the following question: ”What’s working and how can we do more of it”. One other tip is to use destination postcards, they do double duty: The show the Rider where you are heading, and they show the Elephant why the journey is worthwhile. They can be incredibly inspiring!

When it comes to shaping the path two strategies are described:

  1. Tweaking the environment
  2. Building habits.


I can recommend this book, it presents a simple formula for making change. The challenge is of course to tailor and implement it for your specific needs. I have not tried out this yet.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Värdefokuserande teamarbetssätt / Value focused team working

I first got in contact with Joakim Holm and Jagannath Tammeleth (the authors of the book I’m about to review) at Agila Sverige (Agile Sweden). Actually, this year the conference was kickstarted by Joakim, dressed up as a punk rocker talking about ”Agile is not dead – It only smells a little”. Via Twitter I found out that the book with the Swedish title ”Värdefokuserande teamarbetssätt” was released. That roughly translates to ”Value focused team working”, the subtitle is ”A guide in eight steps for teams that wants to master the basics in agile system development”.

This is actually the second time I do a review on a book written in Swedish, my native language. I realize that many of you will never get a opportunity to read the book, but according to my blog statistics Sweden is in third place when it comes to visitors (after USA & UK). The book has 154 pages and was released in 2016.


“Agile is ordering tapas til you’re full ‒ not ordering a 10-course meal.”  ‒ Neil Killick


The team ways of working selected for the book are (each covered in a chapter):

  1. Small batch sizes
  2. Maintaining a backlog
  3. Common planning
  4. Agreed guidelines
  5. Visual guidance
  6. Sync meeting
  7. Demonstrate the result
  8. Continous improvements

Does those ways of working make a good representation for a team? Yes, I think so. I can’t come up with anything that should have been added to the list. Each chapter has sections for: purpose, description (i.e., more details), learnings from the reality and references to further reading. All topped up with recommendations and tips!

Small batch sizes are fundamental in agile. And the ambition to go from large batch sizes (enormous waterfall projects that are doomed to fail) to small batches (handling customer deliveries in a continuous flow). Large batch sizes gives delays that in turn hid process problems that never will surface. On the other hand it’s not easy to shift to this way of working if you are coming from waterfall.

The backlog is something very familiar for an agile team. To produce a backlog is not a one time job (you do it and then you are finished). The backlog needs to be looked after all the time. A way for the team to understand what is important is to have a common planning.

It may not come as a big surprise that visual guidance is my absolute favorite thing about agile. It’s said that ”a picture says more than thousand words” and it’s really true. What you ”see”, you can do something about. What you don’t ”see”, well, there is nothing you can do then.

The sync meeting is usually the first ”aha moment” and most valuable thing, when starting with agile ways of working (being a team using Scrum and Kanban). Starting off the days by sorting out what is most important, who needs help, etc., has been done before but with agile it has really got high-lighted.

When first starting with agile ways of working (being a team using Scrum and Kanban) the first ”aha moment” and most valuable thing is the sync meeting. Starting off the days by sorting out what is most important, who needs help etc. has been done before, but with agile it has really got high-lighted.

The get feedback on your work, one good way is to demonstrate the result to others. I think the demo is a good thing, but sometimes it represents a too long feedback loop (to get input on your work when you are done, not when you are doing it).

Finally the fundament in lean, the continuous improvements (also known as kaizen). I’ve heard a story about an agile coach that was hired to ”implement agile” within a company. He started out with implementing just one practice, the retrospective meeting. With that in place he could steer continuous improvements to set the other principles and practices in place.


I really enjoyed reading this book! It is short, well structured, and to the point. The illustrations are awesome! I also really liked the fact that it took the standpoint from the team’s view, when describing good agile ways of working. If you can read Swedish and want to have value focused team working, you should definitely check it out!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Essential Kanban Condensed

Six years have passed since the ”blue book” was released (the book about Kanban, written by David J Anderson in 2010). To meet up with the competition, Scrum has its own ”Scrum Guide” available for download, I assume that David and Andy Carmichael (the co-author) wanted to release a guide for Kanban as well. That is ”Essential Kanban Condensed”. The book has 100 pages and was released in 2016.



The book consists of 9 chapters starting with ”What is Kanban?” (a method for services that deliver knowledge work) to more advanced topics as ”Forecasting and Metrics”. Instead of going through the book chapter for chapter, I will give you the essentials condensed (pun intended) :).

Kanban Values

Kanban have nine values and they are: transparency, balance, collaboration, customer focus, flow, leadership, understanding, agreement & respect.

Kanban Agendas

There are three agendas:

  • The Sustainability Agenda
  • The Service Orientation Agenda
  • The Survivability Agenda.

The Foundational Principles of Kanban

There are six foundational principles of Kanban, divided into two groups.

Change Management Principles:

  1. Start with what you do now
  2. Agree to pursue improvement through evolutionary change
  3. Encourage acts of leadership at every level.

Service Delivery Principles:

  1. Understand and focus on your customers’ needs and expectations
  2. Manage the work; let people self-organize around it
  3. Evolve policies to improve customer and business outcomes.

The General Practices of Kanban

There are six practices:

  1. Visualize
  2. Limit work in progress
  3. Manage flow
  4. Make policies explicit
  5. Implement feedback loops
  6. Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally.

Implement Feedback loops

To implement feedback loops seven cadences are suggested for a typical enterprise or multiple-service context:

  1. Strategy Review
  2. Operations Review
  3. Risk Review
  4. Service Delivery Review
  5. Replenishment Meeting
  6. The Kanban Meeting
  7. Delivery Planning Meeting.

Kanban Roles

Kanban is and remains to be the ”start with what you do now” method, however in later years two roles have emerged:

  • Service Request Manager
  • Service Delivery Manager.


You should definitely read ”Essential Kanban Condensed” if you want to get up to speed in what Kanban stands for and represents today (as of 2016). Do you want to read it right now even? Currently, it is being offered as a free eBook at this web site.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Lean Software Development

At work we have a book circle. Now we have completed reading “The Nature of Software Development” by Ron Jeffries that I have talked (a lot) about. Now I was on the hunt for a new book to start reading after the summer (almost everybody takes vacation during the summer in Sweden).


I started to look here, at my existing book reviews. I scanned book stores on the Interwebz, I started to walk around in the office sneak peeking at what books that were lying around. I ended up in the “relaxation room” (“vilrum” in Swedish, which every company about a certain size must have).

In there, I found this little gem!


“Lean Software Development” is written by Mary and Tom Poppendieck and was published 2003. I sent out a tweet to ask if it still was worth reading (taking in the fact that 13 years have passed since it was published). The answer was “Yes!”, so I started browsing.

It turned out that there is a lot of good stuff in here that are still very valid!

Seven simple rules or principles for software development

  1. Eliminate waste: Spend time only on what adds real customer value.
  2. Amplify learning: When you have tough problems, increase feedback.
  3. Decide as late as possible: Keep your options open as long as practical, but no longer.
  4. Deliver as fast as possible: Deliver value to customers as soon as they ask for it.
  5. Empower the team: Let the people who add value use their full potential.
  6. Build integrity in: Don’t try to tack on integrity after the fact – build it in.
  7. See the whole: Beware of the temptation to optimize parts at the expense of the whole.

Bam! 100% agile thinking cranked inside those seven simple rules (focus on value, feedback loops, options, fast delivery for knowledge, empowerment of the team, quality and no sub optimization)!

22 tools

Throughout the book, 22 tools are presented. They are:

  • Tool  1: Seeing waste – The seven wastes of SW development: Partially done work, Extra processes, Extra features, Task switching, Waiting, Motion (eg. hand-overs) & Defects.
  • Tool  2: Value stream mapping
  • Tool  3: Feedback
  • Tool  4: Iterations
  • Tool  5: Synchronization
  • Tool  6: Set-based development
  • Tool  7: Options thinking
  • Tool  8: The last responsible moment
  • Tool  9: Making decisions
  • Tool 10: Pull systems
  • Tool 11: Queuing theory
  • Tool 12: Cost of delay
  • Tool 13: Self-determination
  • Tool 14: Motivation
  • Tool 15: Leadership
  • Tool 16: Expertise
  • Tool 17: Perceived integrity
  • Tool 18: Conceptual integrity
  • Tool 19: Refactoring
  • Tool 20: Testing
  • Tool 21: Measurements
  • Tool 22: Contracts

Which tools in the list above are you using? We use some of them for sure in one form or another. Set-based development and Options thinking are not something we do, but seems very interesting.


Have you read ”Lean Software Development – An Agile Toolkit”? What do you think about it? I think that we may have found the next one for our book circle! 🙂

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Toyota Kata (part II)

I’ve written about Toyota Kata earlier, that was before I read the book (also named ”Toyota Kata”). Now I have done that. The author is Mike Rother and the subtitle ”Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Result”. The book was released in 2009, and have 306 pages.



The book consists of 9 chapters divided into five parts. The different parts are:

  • Part I – The Situation
  • Part II – Know yourself
  • Part III – The Improvement Kata: How Toyota Continuously Improves
  • Part IV – The Coaching Kata: How Toyota Teaches the Improvement Kata
  • Part V – Replication What About Other Companies?

The book starts by talking about the current situation. The scenario:
We are here -> Unclear territory -> Where we want to be

We first need to know where we are, before we can move in any direction. If the way to where we want to be is clear, it’s pure implementation to get there (this is not very likely).

”However, it is generally not possible simply to maintain a level of process performance. A process will tend to erode no matter what, even if a standard is defined, explained to everyone, and posted. This is not because of poor discipline by workers (as many of us may believe), but due to interaction effects and entropy, which says than any organized process naturally tends to decline to a chaotic state if we leave it alone.” – Mike Rother

One tool to ”know yourself” (i.e., your business) is to do a Value-Stream Mapping. At Toyota the daily management and continuous process improvements are the same (and not two separate as in most other companies). There is a saying: ”The shop floor is a reflection of management”. The thinking is long-term, a vision can expand beyond one working lifetime. Toyotas long-term vision (that they have been pursuing for decades) consists of:

  • Zero defects
  • 100 percent value added
  • One-piece flow, in sequence, on demand
  • Security for people.

A vision serves primarily as a direction giver. A target condition is more detailed and specific and tells where to go next.

Part III & IV of the book is the heart as they describe The Improvement Kata and The Coaching Kata. This is how the Improvement Kata works:

”Briefly put, the continuously repeating routine of Toyota’s improvement kata goes like this: (1) in consideration of a vision, direction, or target, and (2) with a firsthand grasp of the current situation, (3) a next target condition on the way forward to the vision is defined. When we then (4) strive to move step by step toward the target condition, we encounter obstacles that define what we need to work on, and from which we learn.” – Mike Rother

The ”step by step”-moving is controlled by using PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act).

The Five Questions is a summary of Toyota’s approach for moving toward a target condition and they are highly effective in practice.

  1. What is the target condition? (The challenge)
  2. What is the actual condition now?
  3. What obstacles are now preventing you from reaching the target condition? Which ones are you addressing now?
  4. What is your next step? (Start of next PDCA cycle)
  5. When can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

The purpose of the coaching kata is to teach the organization the improvement kata. It is about leaders as teachers, in a system with mentors and mentees. The purpose of A3 documents is to support the mentor/mentee dialogue.

”We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” – Peter Drucker


I let the author summarize: ”The goal of this book is to set you up to experiment and thereby develop your management system in accordance with the needs of your situation”. I can recommend this book if you want to know more about Toyota Kata, it will be your primary source!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist