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Kanban Creates Buzz Among Agile Crowd

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Like its predecessors, the Agile 2010 conference will go down as a key event in agile project management. This year, I and 1,400 other attendees learned about everything from innovation to Kanban. The conference was held in Orlando, Florida, USA from 9-13 August.

Several sessions were particularly notable. Kenny Rubin, Laurie Williams and Mike Cohn shared the Comparative Agility assessment. Using data from 1,600 teams, users can see how their team's agility compares with others.

Ron Jeffries and Chet Hendrickson, famous as original extreme programmer proponents, made a case for a less dogmatic approach to methodologies and suggested using the hybrid best suited to your needs and circumstance.

For me, the most striking part of the conference was the large interest in Kanban, a project management methodology from Japan that emphasizes cycle time instead of utilization of resources. There were seven presentations on it -- all standing room only and overflowing into the halls.

In Kanban, work is purposefully limited so teams are forced to finish items to high quality before moving on. This can yield the same or more output, but reduces the risk that too many half-done items in progress won't get done. Work is tracked on a board with a few simple columns, such as waiting, working and testing done. Each item, or "ticket," is moved from column to column to reflect its state.  

Have you ever used Kanban methodology? 

 

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3 Comments

I introduced Kanban for support work last year and this year I am in the process of scaling it to projects. It's an awesome process that increases project throughput.

Combine Critical Chain to plan projects and Kanban for executing project tasks.

I have implemented Kanban during my stint in Manufacturing. Kanban is really designed for discrete manufacturing, i.e, where the components are manufactured. This mainly attempted at reducing the inventory. It provides a communication to initiate the next set of activities based on the completion of the previous set of activities. This also depends on various components or dependent lines of activities.

It has been now extrapolated into Project Management areas, where the work is limited to the available resources and the next work will be taken up only when the present work is done.

Although technically it could work out, I believe Project Managers are capable of multi-tasking (at least two tasks at a time) and in the world of ever changing priorities and ever increasing demand, fixing a Kanban for project manager is indeed a real challenge.

I believe what Derek is mentioning is quite close to Kanban, however he seems to be using not only Kanban but a sprint kind of planning.

I commonly get asked what I personally use to manage my work. The answer is almost too simple. I use a Personal Kanban. Now, I’m no efficiency guru. I’m no expert on Kanban. I just need a simple system that satisfies a few requirements and makes sense to me.

1. I need something visual to combat my Attention Deficit Disorder.
2. I need something that visually captures all of my Backlog of work.
3. I need something that helps me visualize what Work is In Progress.
4. I need something that allows me (and others) to see what got Done.

Now, I’ve been using task boards for probably half a decade. When you have that one stakeholder who cruises by your office or cube (constantly) and asks what you’re working on, you can point at the wall and not even look up from you monitor. The board proves its worth just by cutting down on those people interrupting your day. After a while, people get used to knowing what’s going on and appreciate the transparency. It’s strange that I need to point that out. Who benefits by not embracing transparency? That may be a question left to the comments.

The key difference between a Kanban board and a regular task board is a column limiting your work in progress. My first exposure to this was from a Scrum Master training session being led by Sanjiv Augustine. Sanjiv displayed a PowerPoint slide of what appeared to be a Los Angeles freeway. During rush-hour, the amount of vehicles coming onto the freeway are limited (by on-ramp lights). This attempt to control the volume of traffic flow onto the freeway allows vehicles already on the freeway to move at a faster pace and in turn exit the freeway. This visual freeway analogy was like a light bulb moment for me. When I got back to the office and began limiting Work In Progress (WIP), we did indeed increase delivery rates. The days of multitasking are now in the past!

Best Regards,
Derek Huether, PMP
http://thecriticalpath.info

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