A Practical Introduction To Kanban
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Kanban is a popular framework used to implement agile and DevOps software development. It requires real-time communication of capacity and full transparency of work. Work items are represented visually on a kanban board, allowing team members to see the state of every piece of work at any time.
Kanban is enormously prominent among today's agile and DevOps software teams, but the kanban methodology of work dates back more than 50 years. In the late 1940s Toyota began optimizing its engineering processes based on the same model that supermarkets were using to stock their shelves. Supermarkets stock just enough product to meet consumer demand, a practice that optimizes the flow between the supermarket and the consumer. Because inventory levels match consumption patterns, the supermarket gains significant efficiency in inventory management by decreasing the amount of excess stock it must hold at any given time. Meanwhile, the supermarket can still ensure that the given product a consumer needs is always in stock.
When Toyota applied this same system to its factory floors, the goal was to better align their massive inventory levels with the actual consumption of materials. To communicate capacity levels in real-time on the factory floor (and to suppliers), workers would pass a card, or "kanban", between teams. When a bin of materials being used on the production line was emptied, a kanban was passed to the warehouse describing what material was needed, the exact amount of this material, and so on. The warehouse would have a new bin of this material waiting, which they would then send to the factory floor, and in turn send their own kanban to the supplier. The supplier would also have a bin of this particular material waiting, which it would ship to the warehouse. While the signaling technology of this process has evolved since the 1940s, this same "just in time" (or JIT) manufacturing process is still at the heart of it.
While the core principles of the framework are timeless and applicable to almost any industry, software development teams have found particular success with the agile practice. In part, this is because software teams can begin practicing with little to no overhead once they understand the basic principles. Unlike implementing kanban on a factory floor, which would involve changes to physical processes and the addition of substantial materials, the only physical things software teams need are a board and cards, and even those can be virtual.
The work of all kanban teams revolves around a kanban board, a tool used to visualize work and optimize the flow of the work among the team. While physical boards are popular among some teams, virtual boards are a crucial feature in any agile software development tool for their traceability, easier collaboration, and accessibility from multiple locations.
Regardless of whether a team's board is physical or digital, their function is to ensure the team's work is visualized, their workflow is standardized, and all blockers and dependencies are immediately identified and resolved. A basic kanban board has a three-step workflow: To Do, In Progress, and Done. However, depending on a team's size, structure, and objectives, the workflow can be mapped to meet the unique process of any particular team.
The main purpose of representing work as a card on the kanban board is to allow team members to track the progress of work through its workflow in a highly visual manner. Kanban cards feature critical information about that particular work item, giving the entire team full visibility into who is responsible for that item of work, a brief description of the job being done, how long that piece of work is estimated to take, and so on. Cards on virtual kanban boards will often also feature screenshots and other technical details that is valuable to the assignee. Allowing team members to see the state of every work item at any given point in time, as well as all of the associated details, ensures increased focus, full traceability, and fast identification of blockers and dependencies.
A kanban team is only focused on the work that's actively in progress. Once the team completes a work item, they pluck the next work item off the top of the backlog. The product owner is free to reprioritize work in the backlog without disrupting the team, because any changes outside the current work items don't impact the team. As long as the product owner keeps the most important work items on top of the backlog, the development team is assured they are delivering maximum value back to the business. So there's no need for the fixed-length iterations you find in scrum.
Multitasking kills efficiency. The more work items in flight at any given time, the more context switching, which hinders their path to completion. That's why a key tenet of kanban is to limit the amount of work in progress (WIP). Work-in-progress limits highlight bottlenecks and backups in the team's process due to lack of focus, people, or skill sets.
One of the core values is a strong focus on continually improving team efficiency and effectiveness with every iteration of work. Charts provide a visual mechanism for teams to ensure they're continuing to improve. When the team can see data, it's easier to spot bottlenecks in the process (and remove them). Two common reports kanban teams use are control charts and cumulative flow diagrams.
Kanban and CD beautifully complement each other because both techniques focus on the just-in-time (and one-at-a-time) delivery of value. The faster a team can deliver innovation to market, the more competitive their product will be in the marketplace. And kanban teams focus on precisely that: optimizing the flow of work out to customers
Some teams blend the ideals of kanban and scrum into "scrumban." They take fixed-length sprints and roles from scrum and focus on work in progress limits and cycle time from kanban. For teams just starting out with agile, however, we strongly recommend choosing one methodology or the other and running with it for a while. You can always get fancy later on.
David Anderson, Dominica DeGrandis, Corey Ladas, and Daniel Vacanti In 2005 David Anderson was working on implementing the drum-buffer-rope system described in his book, at the XIT Sustained Engineering team in Microsoft. In 2007 he left Microsoft and moved to Corbis, with a mission to change Corbis engineering and improve productivity. There, together with Dominica DeGrandis, he introduced a Kanban system for change requests processing. It has freed the team from constraints of time-boxed iterations, allowed to reduce work in progress, and balance capacity against demand. In the spring of 2007, Corey Ladas has joined Corbis to launch the second kanban project, which was a Scrumban process for product development rather than just maintenance. In summer 2007, Daniel Vacanti joined Corbis and, together with Corey, was working on a third big Kanban project aimed to demonstrate Kanban at Scale. It introduced the concept of swimlanes to keep related work items bound together. In August, David has run an open space at the Agile 2007 conference, speaking about the successful implementation of Kanban at Corbis, which sparked the initial interest in Kanban boards and the Kanban method.
In 2008 a Yahoo! group kanbandev was formed to provide a ground to discuss and learn more about the use of virtual Kanban systems in software development, and it shortly grew to over 1000 members. Aaron Sanders, Alan Shalloway, Alisson Vale, Allan Kelly, Chris Shinkle, Corey Ladas, David Joyce, David Laribee, Derick Bailey, Eric Landes, Jeff Patton, Joe Arnold, Karl Scotland, Linda Cook, Matt Wynne, Mattias Skarin, and Rob Hathaway were prominent pioneers of the Kanban method.
No. The TKP course is the introduction to the Kanban method and shows you the basics and application areas of Kanban. Here you learn the efficient use of the Kanban method and you get to know the five learning objectives of Kanban.
Kanban in Action is a down-to-earth, no-frills, get-to-know-the-ropes introduction to kanban. It's based on the real-world experience and observations from two kanban coaches who have introduced this process to dozens of teams. You'll learn the principles of why kanban works, as well as nitty-gritty details like how to use different color stickies on a kanban board to help you organize and track your work items.
Too much work and too little time? If this is daily life for your team, you need kanban, a lean knowledge-management method designed to involve all team members in continuous improvement of your process.
Kanban in Action is a practical introduction to kanban. Written by two kanban coaches who have taught the method to dozens of teams, the book covers techniques for planning and forecasting, establishing meaningful metrics, visualizing queues and bottlenecks, and constructing and using a kanban board.
Marcus Hammarberg is a kanban coach and software developer with experience in BDD, TDD, Specification by Example, Scrum, and XP. Joakim Sundén is an agile coach at Spotify who cofounded the first kanban user groups in Europe.
Part 1 is a practical introduction to kanban. The goal of this part is to enable you to get up and running using kanban while also giving you a basic understanding of the principles behind it and peeking into some advanced topics to whet your appetite for more.
Brilliant Agile Project Management does more than just talk you through the techniques and processes - focussing on real-life use of Agile in business environments, it provides practical advice and techniques on how to implement and work with Agile, so you always know exactly what to do and say to make your project a success.
Rob Cole is a project management consultant with over 20 years experience. He runs high profile projects and specialises in project troubleshooting. He has been involved in the Agile community form it's earliest days in the DSDM consortium and regularly uses APM on projects of all sizes, and trains teams in it's practical day-to-day uses. 781b155fdc