Monday, May 5th, 2014

Kanban in Action
Kanban in Action by Marcus Hammarberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We’ve been using Scrum at work for several years now — and we’ve had a lot of success with it. But recently, the team I’m on has started to notice that (for various and unnecessary reasons), our workload is not as amenable to Scrum as it used to be. So we’re starting to talk about looking for something else and Kanban is the most obvious starting point.

Skimming Wikipedia had given me a rough idea of what Kanban was, but this book filled in the details in a breezy, entertaining, and enjoyable-to-read fashion. It uses comic illustrations and interactions between a fictional team who’s trying out Kanban to highlight the sort of situations that come up when using Kanban and how to deal with them.

In particular, this book heavily emphasizes the idea that Kanban isn’t a system or process so much as it is a set of principles and rough guidelines. Because it’s not itself a process, you can implement Kanban on top of whatever process you’re currently using — something I’ve not managed to glean before.

My one criticism of this book as that all of the examples are far too neat. In the real world, I’d expect you to run into far more gray areas that aren’t handled quite as easily the ones the book’s imaginary team faces. In particular, I’d have liked to see some examples for adding Kanban to an existing Scrum workflow — the authors point out that this is possible several times, but never really get into what that means. Too often, they just shrug their shoulders and say “It depends”.

I guess that’s what consultants are for. But if you’d rather do some reading instead of (or before) paying those consultants, this book is probably not bad place to start!

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