Mike is a certified PMP project manager and a certified ScrumMaster. Mike was involved with the creation of the DSDM Agile Project Leader certification, holds this certification at the Foundation, Practitioner, and Examiner levels. Mike was named an honorary member of the DSDM consortium and served on the board of APLN and the Lean Software and Systems Consortium. He currently co-leads the PMI Agile Community of Practice. Mike is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 139 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile
Here I am.. Sunday afternoon.. Mother's day. Just got back from taking
the family out for a low key Mother's day celebration and now I've got
a little quiet time before the week begins. The conference last week
was quite a rush... had a great time... met a lot of great people.
Before the week gets going I want to sort through some of my thoughts
on this whole Lean/Kanban thing.
A bit of history... Mary
Poppendieck was one of the first few authors I ever read when I got
formally introduced into the agile community. I recall how much her
book resonated with me then... and looking back I can see how much it
influenced how I think about agile... and the agile movement as a
whole. I tell you guys that to say I have never made much of a
distinction between agile and lean. To me... it was just a different
way of looking at the same fundamental truth.
A buddy of mine
recently told me the story of the blind men and the elephant. The
general idea of the story is that we have a bunch of blind guys in a
room with an elephant (sounds like a problem waiting to happen to me).
These guys are each touching the elephant on different parts of its
body. The guy touching the tail says an elephant is like rope... the
guy touching its leg says the elephant is like a tree... the guy
touching its ear says it is like a giant leaf. You get the idea. The
point is that without being able to see the whole... they each describe
the elephant from their own particular point of view.
As I watch
people debate over what it means to be agile... it seems we were a
bunch of blind men arguing over the nature of the elephant. If your
point of view is small, colocated teams... scrum brings a valid
perspective. If your focus is more technical... the practices of XP
tend to resonate. If you come from a larger more structured
organization... you might need AUP or DSDM. If you have a really small
team of experienced developers... let's talk Crystal. Context is
It seems to me that much of our debate is out of
context. When we get dogmatic about one methodology... about one set of
practices... we are often not taking the other person's context into
consideration. That is why the Agile Manifesto was so powerful... it
was a set of value statements... it was a set of principles... that was
broad enough to be applied in a situationally specific way. We have to
take the local context into consideration.
I don't think the
Lean/Kanban proponents are saying they have found a better way... I
think that we are continuing to learn and to grow and to better
understand what it takes to deliver great software. It seems to me that
the Lean/Kanban movement is not out to replace XP or Scrum or DSDM but
to help organizations that are having trouble adopting these
practices... or have adopted them and need something else to increase
Here is a quote from the Schwaber and Beedle book "Agile Software Development with Scrum"...
process control models are elegantly simple. They employ feedback
mechanisms to monitor and adapt to the unexpected, providing regularity
and predictability. The actors in a Scrum team empirically devise and
execute the best processes possible based on their skills, experience,
and the situation in which they find themselves"
about the team devising the best processes possible based on their
slkills, experience, and the situation in which they find themselves
has always resonated with me. I think that Lean and Kanban give us
another set of processes and tools that can help the team improve. I do
not believe Lean and Kanban are at odds with Scrum... nor do I believe
that Lean and Kanban are going to be successful without the engineering
discipline encouraged by XP. We are just another set of blind men
looking at a different part of the elephant.
My personal take...
is a visual process control tool that helps teams effectively manage
the flow of work through the sprint. Scrum gives guidance that the team
decides what they can do... and the team decides how it will get the
work done. Kanban gives the team another way to inspect and adapt and
to learn how to get better. I am not hung up on the fact that Kanban is
iterationless... I can apply it within the iteration. If I determine
that the iteration has become waste and no longer need it... I'll get
rid of it.
My goal has never been to do Scrum... my goal is to
build great software as fast as possible. In Scrum process improvement
is implicit... the team inspects and adapts and find ways to get
better. In Kanban we put specific visual controls in place that help
the team better understand the flow of work through the sprint and make
targeted improvements as necessary.
To me the idea of Lean is a
bit broader... lean deals with the enterprise. Lean is about managing
the flow of work across teams. How do I take an idea that comes from
biz dev... turn it into a product idea... get the work assessed and
approved... built... tested... delivered to the customer... billed...
and supported. Lean can give us some guidance here for how to manage
the flow of value through the organization. Kanban is a tool... Lean is
A team could use a Kanban board to manage the
backlog item through the development phases... analysis, design, code,
and test. An enterprise could use Kanban board to manage the flow of an
idea from inception through development to billing and support. The
principles of Lean can be applied within the team and across the teams.
Understanding value streams... identiying constraints... eliminating
waste are all explicit ways of helping the team get better. These are
principles and tools that explicitly help the team inspect and adapt
and make better decisions.
As a founding member of the Lean
Software & Systems Consortium I hope we continue to build on what
is out there and resist the urge to make this something wholy new.
Remember... agile is all about uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Lean/Kanban gives us another set of tools to help that come about.