Kanban is Great for (Noobs) Beginning Agile Teams

Kanban is a method that doesn’t prescribe much at all.

In (simple) reality, there are only 3 main constructs to Kanban: A board, a Work-In-Progress limit (WIP), and a simple scheduling system. This doesn’t quite fit delivery planning and predictability in Agile software development and you can choose many other options.

If you have a fully robust and solid Scrum team, you may not want to go Kanban. So why is Kanban getting so much press these days? Would a fully complex development environment with all its issues and process needs go to a Kanban system?

Well, that’s what Peter Schuh asked a little while back, and found that his conversation opened him up to a newer realization: Kanban is great for n00bs (new Agile teams).

“Kanban is ideal for teams that have yet to take the agile plunge. Kanban is a quick hit of simple rules that fills a process void. For the uninitiated, Kanban is a grand welcome into the agile community. Many teams (although not all) can invest a little effort in Kanban and reap significant reward. Then the teams get comfortable and even excited about adopting additional agile practices.”

“Hey, wait. I don’t even know what Kanban is!” – Ok. You’re a noob.

Sounds good to us. What are your thoughts?

[HT: PeterSchuh.com]

17 Responses to “Kanban is Great for (Noobs) Beginning Agile Teams”

  1. Andrew Fuqua
    December 16, 2010 at 10:01 am #

    Heh. I love the You Noob illustration. That gave me a good laugh this morning. But let’s think about this post for a minute.

    Crystal Clear is arguably even lighter-weight than Kanban. You don’t need a board, a wip limit or a scheduling system. For Crystal Clear you need to deliver frequently (sorta implied by Kanban), reflective improvement (which is really what Kanban is all about), and good communication with a preference towards co-location (which Kanban doesn’t address).

    But would you say that Crystal Clear is good for noobs? Not sure what Alistair would say, but I’d say that Clear leaves so much to the discretion of the team that it’s imperative that the team be experienced and have a good agile mindset. Not good for noobs.

    Likewise, if you buy my claim that Kanban is really all about continuous improvement, then can noobs really do this? Continuous improvement is hard. It requires slack (for observation and thinking) and people with lots of experience to bring to bear, to watch out for unintended consequences and to be decent with systems thinking.

    I’m not arguing that there isn’t great value in the 3 main constructs of Kanban listed in the post. There is. But if that’s all you are doing, then aren’t you just doing Mechanical Agile (http://t.co/ZubnITJ

    Or maybe the point of the post is to encourage people to try it (because they can), get their food in the door, then coach them from there? Hmmm.

    • peter
      December 16, 2010 at 10:05 am #

      Ha! Thanks for the writeup. Actually, I’m currently re-reading Alistair’s book on Crystal right now. It’s nice and worn. Has the true look of a book read and re-read many times. Very good stuff.

      For those out there, I would highly recommend Alistair’s book on Crystal Clear, a foundational book for Agile.

      n00bs can’t do a whole lot with a whole lot of nuthin’. Crystal may be a better start for n00bs, but Kanban (I think) is simple enough for a team to embrace. Again, not a whole lot of prescriptions, but it provides (just enough) framework.

      Thanks for the link btw, good stuff there!

  2. Celso Martins
    December 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    I believe that lack of restrictions is good for mature teams. Experienced teams have already incorporated these restrictions and work with them in the blood. I think dangerous to remove restrictions of newbies.
    I believe by having fewer restrictions, Kanban can work better in teams experienced.
    The “command and control” style management is in the ceremonies of Scrum, for example. The obligation of a retrospective meeting “remembers” the time that it is important the process of continuous improvement.
    In the continuous flow of Kanban restrictions are more diluted in the process, without ceremony.
    Don’t you think?

    • peter
      September 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

      I think you can help guide new teams in kanban quite simply. That’s where coaching comes in. A good coach can help a new or experienced team to start moving to something different… and hopefully grow the team through it.


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