Lean

The Unicorn Project

Today the book “The Unicorn Project” by Gene Kim is released! Since I had written a review about his previous book “The Phoenix Project”, I was kindly given the opportunity to read a beta copy to be able to provide you with a review. Here it is!

The Unicorn Project

Content

In this new book Gene Kim re-visits the successful novel format from “The Phoenix Project”. Once again we are back at the company Parts Unlimited, and the main character of the story is Maxine Chambers, a Lead Developer and Architect.

Throughout the story, The Five Ideals are explained to the reader, with a lot of good examples. 

The Five Ideals are:

  1. Locality and Simplicity
  2. Focus, Flow, and Joy
  3. Improvement of Daily Work
  4. Psychological Safety
  5. Customer Focus

Back to the story, what happens during the 19 chapters this book consist of? First there is a major payroll outage, and the management needs to find a scapegoat, guess who? Maxine is punished by being reassigned to the Phoenix Project, which feels like a prison. Heck, Building 5 at corporate campus where they sit, even looks like a prison.

To start, Maxine wants to get a Phoenix build running on her laptop. But this seemingly easy task is nearly impossible, to get through endless layers of bureaucracy. Hope is almost lost when she meets Kurt Reznick (a QA Manager at Parts Unlimited) and joins the Rebellion (a group of likeminded people that wants to work in a different way, by living the The Five Ideals).  

They start off in small scale, overcoming some setbacks during the way, and in the end they manage to turn the company successful again! Read the book to find out how they did it.

Takeaways

My main takeaways from reading this book are: 

  • The Five Ideals are a nice addition to the “Agile arsenal”. Especially Psychological Safety, that I see as a cornerstone for innovation.
  • There is a lot of talk about unicorns (“A unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion”). This book shows that an old large company also can, and inevitable must, be like a unicorn to survive. 
  • A story based on good vs. evil never goes out of fashion. This particular one is also packed with references to things like Star Wars and Game of Thrones 🙂

Recommendation

Gene Kim have a very good sense for knowing what is going on, and to see the trends, in the IT business. That compared with his writing skills, creating a very interesting story, makes this book a solid recommendation! You have not read “The Phoenix Project”, and think it’s needed? No worries, “The Unicorn Project” can be read as a standalone book.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Salvation: The Bungsu Story

A few months ago I had the great pleasure to meet Marcus Hammarberg in person, when he came to my company’s office for a talk called ”The Bungsu Story”. This is an inspirational presentation how agile and lean principles saved a hospital in Indonesia. The speech was based on his experiences that are also covered in the book, that I’m now about to review: Salvation: The Bungsu Story

Salvation: The Bungsu Story - Cover

The book has six parts, 21 chapters and 326 pages. The subtitle is: ”How Lean and Kanban saved a small hospital in Indonesia. Twice. And can help you reshape work in your company.”

Content

”This book is not based on a true story – it is a true story.”

We enter the story right after a major disaster happens to the hospital. During the rain period the partly renovated roof has fallen in. By all means everything is at risk from this moment on. Marcus and his small team from the Salvation Army steps up to the challenge to help the management team of the hospital. But first he digs in, literally, cleaning up after the disaster with the roof. Theory of Constraints is used to improve the process, when the buckets are given up for rice bags (to get rid of the debris).

Part II is called ”The rebuild”. Now the work starts to save the hospital using agile and lean. Example of things that are introduced:

  • The Not List (to keep focus during discussion)
  • Limit WIP (minimize the number of concurrent work in the process to enable flow)
  • Three stages of coaching.
  • Definition of Done -> Gives common understanding.

Things start to move in the right direction, but not as swift as anticipated, but a motivation speech (fully covered in chapter 5) takes care of that!

”Measure to learn – not punish!”

In part III, named ”The backsliding”  the momentum from the start ends up in the inevitable plateau or decline. The war cry from mob programming: ”Turn up the good”  is one of the tools used to push forward. At one point Marcus jokingly says: ”If only there was another emergency for us to handle. That would be great for morale!” You should be careful with what you wish…

Circumstances running a hospital in Indonesia forces the management team to lower the income at the same time as increasing the cost, it is time to get down to business again for Marcus and his team.

”What is the smallest step you can take to see if you’re moving in the right direction?”

Visualizations are used throughout the whole story in Bungsu. Marcus advice is not to overdo the board, keep it simple to let the visualization evolve over time! Chapter 18 is called ”Trust, Transparency, Accountability”. Here the lovely story of Ibu Elsye is told (she is the General Manager of the hospital, taking care of everything else but health care and finance at the hospital). She is totally stressed out over her situation, but with some encouragement and guidance she makes wonders…

Recommendation

I can totally recommend this book! Here are my main reasons why:

  • This book is authentic (see the first quote above), it shows that lean and agile principles works even in a hospital (a context outside of IT)!
  • This book is the perfect sequel to ”Kanban in Action” (which Marcus co-wrote together with Joakim Sundén), which is more theoretical.
  • The chapter with the story of Ibu Elsye (that alone is worth the money buying this book)!

I had the huge honor to help Marcus out as a beta reader for this book, and it was really rewarding to revisit the text when 100% completed!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

The Goal

It’s a trend that young people don’t read books anymore. Instead they spend time on social media or playing computer games. I, who read a lot of books, see this as a problem. Therefore I really like the initiative from Goldratt Books, to re-publish the legendary book ”The Goal” from 1984, but now as a business graphic novel! Hopefully this format will make the Millennials get the invaluable information about Theory of Constraints.

The full title of the book is ”The Goal: A Business Graphic Novel”, and the original was written, as you all may know, by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt. Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Dean Motter have made the adjustments to this new format of graphic novel, and the book has 143 pages and was released in August 2017.

”The

Content

The book starts with an introduction by Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag (daughter of Dr. Eli Goldratt). Back in 1984 Eli wanted to present his new idea (Theory of Constraints) in a way that would stand out from the normal ”boring” management books. He choose the format of a business novel (or, as some say, a teaching novel). The publishers were sceptical but one of them believed in the format of a novel, and published it. 7 million copies sold, and translation to 32 languages showed that the decision was right! Now Efrat wants to do the same thing her father did, using the graphic novel format to appeal to the readers of today!

What is the story? It’s about a factory (the Unico plant) that has run into severe problems (like late shippings) resulting in layoffs. Alex Rogo, a newly appointed plant manager, is put in charge to fix the problems. Alex spends his time in numerous and seemingly meaningless management meetings. He struggles to find out what the problems for the factory really are, but he finds no answers. One day, at the airport, he runs into his old professor Jonah and asks his for advice. Jonah becomes the mentor to Alex, in his pursuit to fix the problems to save the Unico plant. As the story goes along, the ”bits and pieces” of Theory of Constraints are explained in order to help Alex. I will not give away anything more about the story, you simply have to read it yourself! 🙂

However, I end this review with ”The 5 focusing steps of Theory of Constraints”:

  1. Identify the system constraint(s).
  2. Decide how to exploit the system constraint(s).
  3. Subordinate everything else to the above decision(s).
  4. Elevate the system constraint(s).
  5. Go back to step 1. Warning: Do not allow inertia to cause a system’s constraint.

”The

Recommendation

First of all, ”The Goal” is one of the classics. If you haven’t read it, you should really pick up a copy. I really like the graphic novel format. It appeals to me, and hopefully to numerous of others. This is a must read that I can highly recommend!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Top Ten List – Books

Today I visited Stockholm Lean Coffee. It was my first visit in a long time, and the discussions were very giving as usual! The question that I brought to the table was the one of tips of (new) Agile books to read. I got a few suggestions that I can come back to later, when I’ve read them. For now, I will share with you my top ten list of the most inspiring Agile/Lean/Management-books that I have read. Here it goes, in reversed order for most excitement, of course! 🙂

”Top

Top Ten List – Books

10. #Workout (Managing for Happiness)

I start off with the one and only book that yours truly have contributed to. 🙂 It’s the “#Workout”- book that Jurgen Appelo self-published. See my short review here. It has now been withdrawn from the market, and replaced by “Managing for Happiness: Games, Tools, and Practices to Motivate Any Team”. Most of the chapters from the first book was transfered over to the new one that is available for purchase.

9. Scrum and XP from the trenches, 2nd edition

My Agile journey really kicked-off by reading this book back in 2008 (it was then the 1st edition, released 2007). It gave me the understanding that it was possible to build software without using the waterfall model! The 2nd edition is annotated by Henrik Kniberg, sharing eight more years of his experience. Here is my review of the 2nd edition.

8. Creativity, Inc.

Ed Catmull is an astonishing leader! This book is his biography, but also tells you the story on how to build an innovative and creative company, like Pixar (nowadays a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company). In his career he made art and technology come together. Here is my review of the book.

7. Soft Skills

Before I started this blog I had a strong desire of writing a book myself. But I had no idea on how to do it. Via Manning I got involved in a MEAP (Manning Early Access Program) providing feedback to this book “Soft Skills”, to get me “into the world of book writing”. It turned out that John Sonmez are a quite nice fellow! 🙂 “Soft Skills” clarifies personal kaizen.

6. This is Lean

This is my Lean-bible! It taught me the “secret sauce” of flow efficiency (work moves fast through the process) over resource efficiency (people to be busy at all times). I read this book long before I started blogging, therefore I don’t have any formal review, instead you can read this blog post that sums up my thoughts regarding this.

5. Moments of Truth

This book I first read in Swedish (then it is called “Riv pyramiderna!”). The author Jan Carlzon states that a leader of a company can’t be an isolated and autocratic decision maker. Instead, he or she must be a visionary, a strategist, an informer, a teacher, and an inspirer.The values presented in this book are well inline with the agile thinking, talking about empowered teams that are cross-functional and customer focused. Here is the review.

4. Agile Project Management with Kanban

I immediately bought this book after I heard about it, since I’m both into project management and Kanban! And yes, the book fit me like a glove! It’s a true gem, a perfect Agile book in 160 pages. Read more about it here.

Ok, we are approaching top three now…

3. The Innovators

”The Innovators” is Walter Isaacson’s followup book to the ”Steve Jobs”-biography that I think many of you have read. The book holds 500 pages plus, that covers the whole history of the digital revolution from the 19th century to present time. The main takeaway from this book is that creativity is a collaborative process. That innovations comes from smart people working together as a team, rather than from a lone genius. Here is my review.

2. Kanban in Action

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!”.

And the winner is…

1. The Nature of Software Development

This book is written by Ron Jeffries, one of the original Agile Manifesto signatories. It was published 2015 and is a truly agile book with 150 pages full of wisdom! And questions. That can raise wisdom. If you ask me, I think this book is fantastic! Since the chapters are so short and to the point, it’s almost like reading poetry. Agile poetry. This is the ”true north” or ”guiding star” in Agile we all should aim for! Read my full review here.

Summary

I hope you liked this top ten list of books! If you did and tell me, I can make more of this type of lists in the future. It was quite fun compiling it. 🙂 Until next time!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

I got ninety nine problems but the blog ain’t one

I’ve made it! This is blog post number 100! I could never imagined that this would happen when I started this blog two years ago. My first blog post was published on the 11th of October 2014, and was called ”Welcome”. In that post, I claim myself to be an agileist, with the following definition:

To fully define an agileist – he or she helps and coaches other people, thinks a step further, and is also realistic and know that there is a long way to go to ”reach for the stars”.

I have tried to think a step further and to share this with you. Hopefully I’ve made some valuable contributions during these two years, but you are really the one to tell me if I have fulfilled my promise or not.

Most popular blog posts

Here is the top ten list:

  1. The Arrow – Advanced kanban board
  2. Priority pyramid
  3. Trello as ”whiteboard simulator”
  4. Scrum and XP from the trenches, 2nd edition
  5. The Volcano – Enterprise kanban board
  6. The Nature of Software Development
  7. Soft Skills
  8. Applied Capacity Planning
  9. Personal Kanban in Favro
  10. Lean and Agile in three pictures

I’m very honored that two of my visualizations are in the top! Visualizations have been the topic where I’ve done most work, and hopefully contributed the most. Are there any blog posts that I think deserves a bigger audience? Yes, here is that list:

  1. Google Docs, Sheets & Slides in remote meetings
  2. Bug Triage
  3. Agile captains
  4. Feedback Loops 2.0
  5. The Circles – Products´ lifecycle visualization

Monthly statistics

After a slow start, the blog has pretty solidly reached over 1000 page views per month, for which I am super happy! The best month (February 2016) reached 2276 page views, thanks to the post about using Trello as a ”whiteboard simulator”.

”Monthly

Visitors from all over the world

The picture below shows that this blog have had visitors from an amazing 128 countries! This is totally mind blowing! It is difficult to grasp that people from as remote places (from me) like Lesotho, Mongolia, French Polynesia and Nepal have visited my blog.

”Visitors

When it comes to countries with most visitors the top 20 looks like this:

  1. Unites States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Sweden
  4. Germany
  5. Brazil
  6. France
  7. Canada
  8. Russia
  9. Australia
  10. India
  11. Spain
  12. Poland
  13. Netherlands
  14. Italy
  15. Belgium
  16. Ukraine
  17. Denmark
  18. Ireland
  19. Finland
  20. Norway

In the future to come

What will happen now? To be honest I don’t really now. I’ve kept track on how much time I have spent on blogging during these two years and the total is 400 hours. Given that I’ve written 100 blog posts, that gives 4 hours per blog post in average. In the beginning they took a bit longer to write, nowadays that time is shorter (hopefully it’s because my writing has improved, not me being lazy). I have not earned anything on blogging, apart from the experience and fruitful feedback from you (that makes it worthwhile). So in one form or another I will hopefully continue, despite that I have 99 (literately) other things going on. I have a full time work, a wife and two kids that have their activities that I support, and I also have my own other interests. The time for blogging is limited to say the least.

Summary

What do you think of this blog? Does it bring value to you as a reader? I would really like if you could take some time to give me feedback. Maybe you have some ideas on topics that you want me to cover?Thank you very much for reading! Arrivederci!

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).

Searching

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!

””Cover

“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.

Summary

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

Kanban in 30 days

In my quest to read all published books about Kanban, the time has come to ”Kanban in 30 days” by Tomas Björkholm and Jannika Björkholm. The book is subtitled ”Modern and efficient organization that delivers result” and has 106 pages. It was released in 2015. As yes, this is another book coming out from the vivid Kanban community in Sweden.

””Kanban

Content

As hinted by the title, the chapters are divided by days in in a fictive month (30 days) to learn and start using Kanban. They are:

  • Chapter 1: Days 1-2 – Understanding Kanban, Lean and Agile
  • Chapter 2: Days 3-5 – Getting to Know Your System
  • Chapter 3: Days 8-9 – Visualizing Your Process and Creating Your Initial Kanban Board
  • Chapter 4: Days 10-11 – Setting the Limits
  • Chapter 5: Days 12 – Choosing the Roles and Meetings You Need
  • Chapter 6: Days 15 – First Day Running Kanban
  • Chapter 7: Days 16-29 – Improving Your Process
  • Chapter 8: Days 30 – Release Planning

First chapter starts with describing the four foundational principles and the six core practices of Kanban. Short introductions to Lean and Agile are also present. Next chapter continues to go into a little more into detail and tells about classes of service and value stream mapping.

Chapter 3 is about visualization and the concept of stories and one story per swim lane are explained (swim lanes corresponds to horizontal  ”rows” on the Kanban board, in conjunction to the vertical ”columns” that represents the step in the work process that are visualized). A cool alternative to the standard Kanban board (with rows and columns) is also presented, in the form of a architectural drawing!

One whole chapter covers the art of setting WIP (Work In Process) limits together with the concept of Theory of constraints. Despite the Kanban principle of Initially, respect current roles, responsibilities & job titles some new roles are introduced. They are: Kanban Master, Product Owner/Product Champion and Chief Product Owner/Project Manager. A set of suggested meetings is also present in this chapter.

In chapter 6 the time has come to start the first day of using Kanban. Full day activities are suggested for this first day. When you are up and running, the focus switch to kaizen, to continuously improve the work process. PDCA is for example mentioned as one way of doing this. Final chapter is about release planning. One way of quick estimation is presented, by dividing your work into three bunches and then into nine bunches if needed.

Recommendation

All in all, I was positively surprised by this book! It covers what you need to know to get Kanban stated and running. As for any short agile book (around 100 pages), you may want to look elsewhere if you want to dig deeper into the theories. I particularly like the separation of days in a month to point out chapters to read (however I did not try it myself while reading). If you are new to Kanban and want to learn more, this book is definitely a good alternative to start with!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist