#Kanban & #PKFLOW Flamewar – Who Owns the IP?


Sometimes people get very territorial over ideas, ideals, philosophies, religion, politics, and even software development methodologies and intellectual property.

Sometime people are very sensitive around who references whom, and who is credited with what.

A reader of mine forwarded me a recent twitter arguement around the genesis of kanban and personal kanban from David J. Anderson and Michael Bolton.


The info-graphic to the right is ‘annotated’ with some pretty humorous anecdotes, but the main point remains the same:

  • Who owns what?
  • Who should reference whom?
  • Is it unsafe to use methods without citing their genesis or beginning?
  • What’s the big deal?
  • Why the call out?
  • Over sensitive?
  • Twitter a good medium?


  1. I totally understand @agilemanager’s points (except the hanging out with American Agilists…).
  2. I also understand @michaelbolton’s points (handled the situation well).

So what’s the stink?



David is saying that the kanban and pkflow stuff is in the public domain – a priori. As a responsible journalist, or a researcher, it is expected that we reflect a priori or existing research that mirrors our own research. David and Jim both do this in their works reflecting the existing knowledge that they build and – and reflecting other movements that have indirectly influenced and informed their thinking. The argument is not that David invented something – but that Bolton and SQE have not following responsible journalism and research protocol.

All David asked Bolton to do was to reflect that the Alcatel Lucent work reflected what is going on in the industry around kanban and pkflow. And while apparently the Alcatel Lucent version evolved without direct influence of a kanban / pkflow coach, David is absolutely correct that it is inconceivable that this precise implementation evolved completely independently of the kanban / pkflow movement.


Author: peter

Peter Saddington is an Organizational Scientist and Certified Scrum Trainer. You can find him at AgileforAll.com

18 thoughts on “#Kanban & #PKFLOW Flamewar – Who Owns the IP?”

  1. Your talking about the singer “Bolton” ? lol
    No but really I follow you, I feel like if I post something you dont like r disagree with either b nice and respectful about what I shared r dont leave your “two cents”

  2. What I feel is this, if I shared/post something you disagreed with are didnt like be respestful in voicing your opoion (not spelled right lol) are kick rocks!!

  3. One simple question, do we in our everyday life “credit” the creator of every single item, action and play? Do we even KNOW who created the language we are having conversation in and give credit to those “inventors” for every line we write?
    That was 1 example. We can extrapolate it to every single action.

    Are we not taking this too far?

    And please avoid making any religious connections to this question.

  4. I wonder if there are any pending claims at the USPTO? That would sure highlight if Mr. Anderson is just trying to claim what he believes to be useful, novel and non-obvious? I know he filed a few times before, so perhaps we will all be paying licensing royalties in the future for using colored stickies :o( Maybe using a nested state-machine with guard conditions while providing visualization might also constitute infringment?

      1. Well, my understanding is that it must meet the three tests I listed. Then there would be a fight over the date it was put into practice. So if someone put colored stickies into practice before Mr. Anderson, then his claim might have some difficulty. Reminds me of that one about “I invented the internet!”.

  5. What did Anderson really create here? Kanban came from japan; red indicating a stopped/failed point in a system has been done for many years…(stop signs anyone?)

    I loved the comment (not sure if its in your jpg) someone said that he can’t just stake out territory and demand tribute from passers by like a bridge troll.


  6. Pingback: #Kanban & #PKFLOW Flamewar – Who Owns the IP? | Agile | Syngu
  7. What? I’m confused now. NOw Peter you’re saying it’s inconceivalbe that marcus and bolton discovered using red stickies independently?

    They certainly claim that they did maybe you should ask them about it .


  8. If it were me, I would be careful about making statements of fact without proof – like the one “@michaelbolton is shockingly unprofessional” – might be grounds for defamation!

    1. Good point. Either way, Anderson’s “gravitas” was on display for all to see. I’m sure the comment that he doesn’t like “American” Agilists is sure to play well.

      Yes and red post its are so important they require references…we’re well beyond mere self promotion and self aggrandizement at this stage.


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