Priming Kanban

| by Jesper Boeg Follow 4 Followers on Nov 11, 2011

About the Author

Jesper Boeg has worked as an Agile and Lean coach for more than 5 years and is now in charge of the department for ”Agile Excellence” at Trifork. He has a Masters degree from Aalborg University in the area of Information Systems and wrote his thesis on how to successfully manage distributed software teams. Jesper helps teams and organizations adopt Agile and Lean principles with a strong focus on understanding “why”. He has a reputation for being honest and straight forward, with a firm believe that change management is much more about people than process.

Jesper believes that trust is best established through an unrelenting focus on transparency in the entire organization.He has a strong passion for Lean Product Development and continuously emphasizes that one must look at the entire software delivery system to guide success. Context Based Strategically Aligned Agility are keywords in Jesper’s work. It is his experience that to create lasting change, organizations cannot rely on Best Practice rule sets but must put effort into understanding “why” and aligning Agile principles with the overall business strategy. Otherwise they will quickly revert to former practices when faced with difficulty and restrict themselves from great improvement opportunities.

Jesper regularly speaks at Agile and Lean conferences. He is member of the GOTO Aarhus Program Advisory Board and has served as trackhost on numerous GOTO and QCon conferences.

Kanban represents a unique way of catalyzing the application of Lean product development principles to software development, maintenance and operations. Being a method for driving change Kanban does not prescribe specific roles, practices or ceremonies but instead offers a series of principles to optimize value and flow in your software delivery system. As such, Kanban’s focus on context and adaptability has made it increasingly popular for teams working in contexts where traditional Agile methods are not an easy fit and mature Agile teams looking for ways to further optimize their development process.

When first introduced to these concepts many teams are however left with the questions: “How do we get started”? “Are there common behaviors or strategies that can help us take the plunge”? This is natural and people familiar with the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition will recognize that novices need rules, plans and even practices.

Therefore this mini-book offers an easy to follow 10 step guide to taking the initial plunge and start using Lean principles to optimizing value and flow in your system. Each step consists of a section explaining “why” followed by examples of specific tools, practices and rules that have helped other teams better understand and optimize their system. The author's hope is that this will make it easier for teams to get started and quickly understand the importance of value and flow by experiencing it first hand.

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Table of Contents

Foreword, James Sutton


  • Background
  • When should I consider working with Kanban?
  • What is Kanban?
  • How do we get started with Kanban?
  • Where can Kanban be used?
  • Kanban Myths

Step 1: Visualize your workflow

  • Understanding your software delivery system
  • Visualizing your system

Step 2: Limit Work in Progress (WIP)

  • Understanding WIP
  • Visualizing WIP Limits
  • Finding the right WIP limits

Step 3: Set Up Quality Assurance Policies and Make Them Explicit

  • Understanding quality
  • Visualizing policies

Step 4: Adjust Cadences

  • Understanding Cadence
  • Finding the right cadences

Step 5: Measure Flow

  • Understanding Metrics
  • What to measure?
  • Cumulative flow diagrams (CFD)
  • Reading the CFD
  • Cycle time
  • Defect rate
  • Blocked Items

Step 6: Prioritize

  • Cost of Delay (COD)
  • Visualizing Priority

Step 7: Identify Classes of Service

  • Types of work
  • Define Classes of Service
  • Visualizing Classes of Service

Step 8: Manage Flow

  • Decision filters
  • Optimize flow not utilization
  • Relieve bottlenecks
  • Introduce buffers
  • Release planning
  • Experiment

Step 9: Establish Service Level Agreements (SLA)

  • Establishing the right Service Level Agreements

Step 10: Focus on Continuous Improvement

Good luck on your journey