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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Mechanics of Kanban Improvements


As I’ve already started working on my session for ACE Conference 2011 I tinker at different improvements introduced by Kanban and the way they pop out. Actually if I had to point a single, most surprising for me, feature of Kanban I’d point exactly the way it fosters improvements.

When we were starting with Kanban I expected it to be more a very lightweight approach, which organizes the workflow and doesn’t get into way, than something which may trigger any improvements on its own. Things didn’t really work that way.

Yes, we fixed issues we’d faced at that time but that was to be expected. Then we kept finding new issues and correcting them. For a longer time I didn’t really put much thought how it worked but I had to explain somehow specific practices we introduced in my presentation on AgileEE as I wanted to talk about the subject. I realized that we didn’t plan them. They just popped out. Somehow. Magic?

No, not magic. After short investigation I found the one to blame – it was Kanban. Thanks to using Kanban, specific problems were unveiled and we were just fixing them, sometimes completely unconsciously.

One of my favorite stories is when I suddenly realized we had collective code ownership. Yes, it was totally out of the blue. “Wait,” I thought “didn’t we discuss it through? Didn’t we end up with conclusion that we wouldn’t have collective code ownership? What the hell?” Actually it appeared that it was just easier to have collective code ownership in a pull system, such as Kanban, so people stopped thinking whether this is their own or someone else’s code. After some some time we had collective code ownership implemented basically effortlessly.

That is exactly the mechanics of Kanban improvements. You introduce them because it’s just easier that way. You either see something is wrong on the board and have a quick discussion how to tackle the problem and implement a solution or people start dealing with the issue unconsciously. Either way you end up with your process slightly improved.

And you repeat this activity. Multiple times. After some time when you compare what have you started with and what you ended up with you start thinking: how the hell this whole improvement thing in Kanban works? You can’t see it but somehow it’s happening. All the time.

Well, it seems it just works that way. Don’t complain, just make use of it.

in: kanban

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