Thursday, 16 July 2009


After Alistair lecture the convention divided into 4 different tracks,eFigWolfson-7Kanban I chose to attend the session titled as ScrumBan given By Yuval Yeret (a Coach in Agile sparks). In this talk Yuval introduced some of the ideas behind Kanban and how they fit inside a Scrum Process.

So what is Kanban

I not going to explain too much here info on that can be found here and here. I would just say that Kanban is what guided toyota when designing its lean manufacturing line and it very much resemble a Scrum process with two major differences:

  1. its more flow based and less iteratice kind of process.
  2. being a flow based process the amount of work In Progress allowed (WIP)is limited.

When to use Kanban

Kanban should be used in situations when one can’t plan effectively, even for a very short cycle found in Scrum. This usually happens in specific kind of projects. one example would be projects which are mainly about support and maintenance. In These priorities really change on a daily basis making planning useless.

However many projects do have specific stages in which its really hard to plan ahead and naturally they adopt a more Kanban style of working. This happens a lot towards a release date during the Hardening phase. In this phase most of the work is about solving issues found as fast as possible and there is nt much use in doing extensive planning ahead.

When not to use Kanban

Kanban is sometimes adopted to hide a Scrum smell. Sometime an organization find himself incapable of planning and adopt Kanban way of working. However, the inability to plan can sometime be a real dysfunction needs solving. Maybe the PO is not doing a proper job in managing priorities, maybe an external force like the CEO is injecting too much noise… adopting Kanab in this states will only hide the problem (at least for some time). In these contexts Kanban can be viewed as a ScrumBut

The effects of doing Kanban

The most visible effect of Kanban is that from time to time team members will be blocked. Since the amount of WIP is very limited. there will be cases in which a team member is not allowed to pick up new work and needs to find himself something to do. The first option this member has is to help others. and indeed, One of the goals of a Kanban process is to generate teamwork in order to solve bottle necks in the process.

but there are cases in which one cant help others, this is the time in which a member works on improving the process. Whether by trying to understands why the bottle necks happens and resolve them. or by doing any kind of work to improve General productivity (Paying Technical debt, optimizing some development process, cleaning up…)

another Effect a Kanban has is the that regular measurements like Velocity burn down charts lose their meaning. You cant draw a burn down when not working in time boxes, the same goes for velocity. Instead in a Kanban process one use a modified Burn up chart in order to measure the WIP at any given time (where the goal is to minimize it) and ”lead time” which is the time it take for a task/feature to be finished (naturally the goal is to shorten the time).

To summarize Kanban is an agile process, which resemble Scrum but takes it a little further by adopting a flowing kind of process. It was successfully adopted by Toyota , and it can be adapted to enhance a Scrum process or to replace it in specific stages during the prodcut life cycle.

next Scaling the PO Role


Yuval said...

One other place where Kanban makes a lot of sense is in driving the upstream activities - backlog creation - or the ideation backlog

See and

I believe this is a place where Kanban is going to be very prevalent. Its exactly the medicine the doctor ordered for a lot of the problems creating effective backlogs, especially when scaling the organization, but also for small teams.
Note this is kind of a "Lean envelope" that can wrap teams working in any Agile methodology be it Scrum, Scrumban, Kanban, XP, etc.

Thanks for the interesting writeup about the conference!

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