If you are keeping up with trends in software project management you are likely familiar with the concept of Kanban. You may have even used Kanban to a greater or lesser degree in your own projects. Although you might not have known you were using Kanban.
Kanban literally means “card.” In a Lean manufacturing environment A Kanban is used to signal to an upstream provider that the downstream needs to be replenished. For example: at an automobile manufacturer, when a fender is put on the car on the line, a kanban and empty cart are sent up to the fender shop to replenish the fender supply so that the next car can be built. The Kanban (card) tells the fender shop what fender to put in the cart and send back to the assembler. This exemplifies a “Pull” system that supplies materials “Just In Time”.
Kanban is being used more and more by software developers and software project managers. When used in software it is really more the concept than the actual kanban that is applied. A kanban board is created with multiple columns for each processing step in the process. For example columns are created for:
Whew that was a really long list. But it represents a summary of the Kanban that I am using on my project.
I like Kanban but I want to be perfectly clear, it is JUST one tool. Many people today are looking at Kanban like it is another methodology. Since Scrum hasn’t worked for them they are looking to Kanban to solve their problems. When what they really need is not an other methodology to slap on their development, but a fundamental shift to a different way of thinking. Kanban is one tool and a relatively small one in the grand scheme of things, in a Lean company.
Like Agile you can implement all the tools of Lean and never really be lean. You will find some success because both Agile and Lean surface problems and help optimize your organization. But if you don’t go to the core of these management philosophies and change your culture, you will never see the long term results for which you are looking.
Culture change is hard. Let’s explore culture change in more depth.