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pmk – poor man’s kanban – 0 of N

So, I’ve caught the bug.  Okay, a bug.  The Lean/Kanban/Pull/Whatever bug.

Developers like to push things like SOC, IoC, SOLID, TDD, etc. as well as particular tools that (purportedly) help to promote these things.

When you ask developers why these things are important, you get a lot of conflicting answers, most of which devolve to something like “Well, I feel like I’m a better developer because of them.”

Which is nice, but developers (and I am one) seem to like all sorts of things, sometimes because things are ‘cool’ and sometimes because they provide value, and sometimes both.

What I have come to find is that Lean/Kanban/Pull/Whatever (and more on this locution in a minute) can provide both an explanation and a defense of why these things are good.  Or at least can be.

Like all developer-driven things, ‘coolness’ is often times just ‘developer geek shit.’  Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but different developers have different ideas about what is cool.  When should we try out coolness, and when should it be avoided?  How are we to determine this?

Why Lean/Kanban/Pull/Whatever?

Like most everything else, the definitions of Lean and Kanban and Pull are in flux.  There is a lot of debate about what Kanban is, which you can see if you surf the Yahoo Kanban group.  “Lean” when it comes to software development can mean a lot of different things.  Google is your best friend here to see it all, but it derives from Lean Manufacturing, usually tied into how Toyota does things.

But you don’t have to buy into how Toyota manufactures cars to apply Kanban to software development (in fact, I would encourage you not to, more on this later).

Though there is no exact readily agreed upon definition of “poor man’s kanban”, I will define it for reference as the following:

pmk definition

poor man’s kanban:

  • Limits WIP (work in progress)
  • Pulls value
  • Makes it visible
  • Eliminates waste and limits costs

The last item is already controversial (kanban tends to classify everything that doesn’t pull value as being waste, which I think is a mistake), but regardless, what I hope to do is to eludicate these items in explaining why Lean/Kanban/Pull/Whatever is worth pursuing.

posted on Friday, June 05, 2009 10:02 PM Print
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# re: pmk – poor man’s kanban – 0 of N
Chris Matts
6/8/2009 3:48 AM
I think that eliminates waste is a good thing. I think the realisation is that eliminating waste is not as easy as it sounds. The waste may be slack that acts as risk management.

I think that "eliminate waste" as a driver for the process is incorrect. Eliminating waste is an emergent behaviour of a kanban system where risk management is properly applied.
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# re: pmk – poor man’s kanban – 0 of N
jdn
6/9/2009 7:06 PM
@Chris

I think whether 'eliminate waste' is a driver depends on how kanban is implemented. As I'm going to talk about later, I think that being able to see the level of waste can be something that might be an initial driver in terms of motivating people to improve their software development processes, but I agree that it isn't in itself ultimately an ultimate driver.

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