Kanban

King of Kanban

”King

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.

”King

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!

Introduction

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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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!”

Summary

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

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Tachometer to find perfect flow

How do you obtain a ”perfect flow” of work tasks passing through your software development team? That question have been in my head for quite some time. I can start by admitting that I don’t have a solid answer to that question (yet). However, I have instead thought of a way to visualise if you are having ”perfect flow” or not. How? I’m thinking of a tachometer!

”Tachometer”

Tachometer to find perfect flow

First of all, this is just an idea that popped into my head (this is actually the first encounter with the ”outside world”, so please bear with me). The idea is however to use a tachometer to indicate ”perfect flow” on a kanban board for a development team. Just like a tachometer is indicating if you are using the sweet-spot of your engine at any given moment.

My little example is a kanban board with three columns:

  • Design – Given the value 1
  • Development – Given the value 2
  • Test – Given the value 3

The values are used to calculate the position of the needle in the tachometer. I will now give you three examples that hopefully explains it all!

Example 1 – ”Too early”

”Tachometer

In this example three tasks are in the ”Design”-column, giving a ”tachometer value” of:

1 + 1 + 1 = 3

Thus indicating that we are ”too early”, and that the later steps in the flow (”Development” and ”Test”) are not utilised. The analogy with a car would be to ”gear up” meaning that the team needs to take the ongoing tasks to the later steps of the process.

Example 2 – ”Too late”

”Tachometer

In this example three tasks are in the ”Test”-column, giving a ”tachometer value” of:

3 + 3 + 3 = 9

Thus indicating that we are ”too late”, and that the team soon will run out of things to do. The similarities with a car would be to ”gear down” and for the team to put focus on feeding in new tasks to the kanban board.

Example 3 – ”Perfect flow”

”Tachometer

In this example the three tasks are evenly spread between the columns, giving a ”tachometer value” of:

1 + 2 + 3 = 6

Thus indicating that we have a ”perfect flow”, and that the steps in the process are utilised in the best possible way!

Summary

I understand that the mathematical formula behind this idea must be improved if this should become a reality. There are also cases where a tachometer like this will not be useful, for example if the team has just started. Maybe this can act as a challenge to manufacturers out there of digital kanban tools to add a tachometer in their product!

All the best,
Tomas from TheAgileist

Famban

What is Famban? That is my own abbreviation of Family + Kanban! In other words, our attempt to visualise and keep track of all activities within our family. Can’t an ordinary kanban board solve that need? Of course, but we have made some additions that we find useful. It’s also quite fun to come up with a new name for something, I admit  🙂 .

”Famban

Famban in Favro

Setup

We use a collection in Favro with three boards:

  • Ongoing week (with one column for each day in the week – Monday to Sunday)
  • Next week (same setup as above)
  • Further ahead (with two columns; Coming – To keep track of things that are 2-4 weeks ahead & Later – to store stuff even further away).

Why have a bi-weekly schedule? It seems to fit our needs best. You could have a one week rolling schedule or four weeks instead, depending on your needs.  

We use color coding (called Tags in Favro) to visualise different types:

  • Recurring activities (Green) – Used for all recurring family activities, for example ice hockey school on Sundays for my son.
  • Activities (Blue) – To cover all “one off”-activities.
  • Travel (Red, not shown in picture above) – To keep track of an “activity” that spans more than one day.
  • Food (Purple, not shown in picture above) – We had an idea to keep recipes in here to also plan our dinners. To have 10-15 of our favourites to be able to spread them out during the two weeks and have some variation. We had not really succeeded in this though.

Operations

The operations of Famban is easy! Since Favro has a very good web interface for computers, together with apps for iOS and Android we can reach it everywhere all the time. This is the number one benefit of having a digital board like this!

It’s mainly me that maintains the Famban board. Every time an activity comes up, it’s added to one of the boards (ongoing week, next or further ahead).

Once a week, usually on Sunday, the next week is discussed and planned in more detail. Basically I then make “next week” the “current week” by switching places on the two boards (a simple drag and drop operation in Favro). I also change the week numbering (week 47, week 48 etc.). A trick here is to have double of all recurring activities, so you don’t need to copy them between the weeks.

Famban on fridge

”Famban

Our first attempt of Famban, was to put it up on the fridge. That is the most “central spot” in our home, here it’s seen multiple times per day by all family members. I made a physical version of the Famban board using several papers that I taped together. One problem was that it couldn’t be wider than the door of the fridge, and at the same time have the needed seven columns (one for each day in the week) and to be able to fit standard size stickies.  Therefore the “To-do” and “Done” sections were placed “below” the board.

This incarnation of Famban worked well at home, and we had daily morning meetings in front of it. The problem came when not at home, not being able to see it. Often the question came up during the day while at work, my wife called me and asked “Do we have something on Tuesday evening, or can I make arrangements with my friend X?”. That question was not possible to answer, it had to be handled later when at home again, that was inflexible so after a while this Famban board was not used.

Improvements

Here are some improvements that I have thought of, but not yet implemented:

  • When the kids get older and probably get even more recurring activities an improvement would be to add swim-lanes, one for each family member. That is supported in Favro.
  • To get the food planning up and running, adding nice pictures to the recipes would probably help!
  • We have lost the visibility by having the Famban put up on the fridge. That could be fixed by mounting a tablet device on the fridge, showing the Famban board 🙂

Summary

Famban is visualisation and family planning combined! I hope you liked this blog post, and that it inspires you to try something similar! As always, reach out to me if you have something to share!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Feedback Loops 2.0

Earlier on in this blog I have written about feedback loops. Time has come to revisit that topic, and also to talk a bit more how we do it right now.  

Introduction

One of the six Kanban core practices is “implement feedback loops”. Short loops gives the possibility for fast feedback. Our feedback loops are mainly implemented as a set of meetings with different cadence.

”Feedback

Purpose

The purposes of the meetings with different cadences are the following:

  • Improve quality – By giving early feedback on work, errors can be found and corrected when they are “small”, and not later when they become “disasters” (i.e., found in production by customers).
  • Reduce context switching  – By giving feedback fast, the context is still “active” and no context switching is needed (that takes time and reduces the overall productivity).
  • Implement feedback loops – As mentioned earlier, it’s one of the six core practices in Kanban.

Meetings with daily cadence

Daily standup

The purpose is to enforce all six Kanban core practices. The team captain conducts a daily standup in front of the kanban board, with all team members present. Other stakeholders can listen in. Focus is to get tasks to flow through the process, and taking care of and removing impediments (bottlenecks that are preventing the flow).

Bug Triage

We believe that over time more brains makes better decisions than just one! To prioritize between bugs is an activity known as “bug triage” in the software industry. All new bugs entered in the ticket system shall pass this meeting for decision. Fix or not? If fix, when – current release, upcoming or future? Is the bug valid, if not close.

The bugmaster (yes that’s the name!) conducts the meeting and goes through the list of bugs currently in the state “Dispatch”. Afterwards the ticket system is updated with all the decisions made on the meeting.

Meetings with weekly cadence

Status, Planning & Prioritization

The purpose is to follow up on already made commitments, but also to be agile and be able to act fast on changes from customers or in the market.

This weekly meeting has the following agenda:

  1. Action points from last meeting.
  2. Discuss the overall planning, currently we are using “The Circles”.
  3. Discuss and prioritize activities in “The Volcano”.
  4. Any adjustments needed in time, cost or scope? We work in teams, but team members can move between them to where they are needed the most for the time being. If we can, we cut the scope for a release (we work in priority order, starting with the things that are promised to customers so it is possible). A last outcome is to postpone the release (change the release date).
  5. Any other business. Sometimes we use “The Shooting Target” to focus when we get closer to a release for a product.

The Head of Project Management is conducting this weekly meeting together with other stakeholders and the captains from the teams. A written protocol is produced and made available after each meeting.

System architect group

The purpose of this meeting is to secure that we have an architecture for our products that is sustainable and can live a long time. General topics around the architecture is discussed (security, scalability, redundancy etc.), as well as all tickets marked “Sysarch” in the ticket system. The Head of Development leads this weekly meeting together with all system architects.

Demos

The purpose is for developers to show their work on regular basis and to get early feedback on it (before it is “too late to change”). The demo is conducted on Friday afternoons together with “fika” (Swedish phenomena – like an extended coffee break) in the control room.

Meetings with monthly/quarterly cadence

Release planning

The purpose is to produce a prioritized scope (specified on high level) together with a time plan (release date) for the coming release of a product. Stakeholders meet in one or several meetings to discuss:

  • Targets – What do we aim for with this specific release? The targets must be meaningful and understandable to ALL! They shall also be helpful in the daily work. “Shall I do A or B?”, the targets shall guide the decision.
  • Scope – What shall be included in the release.

Ad hoc/when needed meetings

Team planning

The captain calls the team for a planning meeting anytime needed. Usually this is done when the team starts to work with a new thing (fetched from “The Volcano”).

Kaizen meeting

The purpose is to secure that we improve the teams and the process a little step every day (continuous improvements). Before we had this meeting regularly (bi-weekly), but we sort of lost momentum. Now the meeting is called upon when needed (something in the team or process needs to be improved). We use a channel on Slack to bring up the topic with two possible outcomes:

  1. The topic is discussed and solved on the channel directly
  2. The topic is extensive and a meeting is needed (or some smaller topics are collected before a meeting is called).

The Agile Coach and the captains together with other persons with interest in the topic(s) perform the meeting. The outcome is documented on the Slack channel.

Summary

There you go, these are the meetings we conduct to implement feedback loops. We also have some other channels for feedback, but I save them for another blog post. What type of feedback loops does your organization have? Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

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.

”Essential

Content

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.

Recommendation

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

Control Room 2.0

I have previously written about the “Control room” we are using. That blog post became quite popular, so I thought I should do an update showing what we have in the room today (all in the name of kaizen – I hope you don’t forget to do your continuous improvements?).

””Favorite

Team Kanban boards

The yellow circles shows some of the Kanban boards for our teams (not all are visible in the picture). They are pretty standard, except for one that is mirrored! You can read the story about why right here.

Shooting Target

Next up is our “shooting target” shown in the red circle. Here you can read more about that. Currently we use the “shooting target” to focus the work at the end of a product release. We put the release date in the middle “to aim for”, and then everybody sees what has to be done.

TV

In the middle of the room and in the blue circle we have our TV. This 4K TV shows status from our automated tests and bug tracking system. Here we can always see the current situation. Basically green means ”good” and normal, and everything else is deviances that we need to act upon. A desktop is connected to the TV to be able to show demos and support other discussions.

Circle of Life

In the grey circle our products lifecycle visualization is shown. Read more about it here. The “Circle of Life” started out very challenged (what is this really needed for?) but then the understanding of it, and thereby importance, has grown!

The work you do on your products differs a lot depending on which phases they are in. Now this is visualized. There might even be more changes to come, watch out for upcoming blog posts on that!

The Volcano

The Volcano shown in the green circle is our oldest visualization (apart from the team Kanban boards). It is the successor of The Arrow.  

Initially we had one swim lane per product within the volcano. That didn’t quite work out since a story (represented by a sticky) could in our case span several products. Now we have two swim lanes showing origin/ownership. Features are driven by product management, and foundation/platform are driven by the system architects group.

Summary

In total we have eight whiteboards in the room (not all of them are shown in the picture). Also present in the room is a sofa (for coziness), chairs and and a small table. Meetings in the ”control room” tends to be more informal than in a ordinary meeting room.

If I compare the “control room” now with the previous blog post (posted in May 2015), all visualizations have changed (apart from the Kanban boards)! That feels very comforting to know that we are able to add new stuff as we learn more, but also to fine-tune the existing things. What does your ”control room” look like?

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

The Volcano – Prioritize Work for Multiple Teams & Products

Summertime is here again, and for many of us that means vacation. During the vacation period I can take time to do more reading than I normally do. Do you want something to read as well? Maybe I can interest you in my article ”The Volcano – Prioritize Work for Multiple Teams & Products” that has been published on InfoQ.

””Volcano

(Picture taken from the article at InfoQ)

Here is a short description:

It is always a challenge to make the correct priorities! Which one of work A, B or C shall you do first, and why? The Volcano is a great tool to visualize and prioritize work for multiple teams working with several products.”

You can read the full article here.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist