Kanban, PDF

Kanban - David J. Anderson

Are you looking for a way to improve your existing processes to catalyze cultural change and deliver better business agility? Read here how Kanban can and will be the ideal system to achieve results with quality.

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If your technology company is having trouble reaching project goals, or you are looking for a system to improve your team's productivity, Kanban is the perfect solution.

Kanban has become one of the most used techniques to visualize and control a project's stages, especially regarding software development.

Learn how to implement this project in your company and see your team at maximum productivity with quality results. Keep reading this book summary to learn how you can recognize improvement opportunities.

The book "Kanban"

The book “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business” was released in April 2010, with 261 pages, by Blue Hole Press publisher.

With 20 chapters divided into four parts, the reader learns about the system that has won many supporters in the software development universe by promoting a cultural change that eliminates waste and improves the team’s agility.

Who is David J. Anderson?

David J. Anderson is one of the pioneers when we talk about the Kanban method, his curriculum has experiences like Microsoft, Motorola e IBM.

David has been in the technology industry for over 30 years, and has published over seven books, including “Essential Kanban Condensed” and "Fit for Purpose". He is also the founder of David J. Anderson School of Management and Kanban University.

Why read "Kanban"?

If you are involved in web development or in-house application development projects, this reading will give you insights to solve problems and optimize your performance.

This content is ideal for students looking to prepare for professional challenges in software development and anyone who wants to create successful and sustainable organizations.

What are the main points of the book "Kanban"?

  • Suggested changes out of context are rejected by the workers who have lived and understood the context of the project; 
  • The system makes productivity, predictability, and client satisfaction better and reduces lead time;
  • Kanban helps in the organizations’ cultural evolution;
  • Reducing work-in-progress increases the quality of deliveries;
  • The Kanban method removes problems that damage performance and challenges a team to solve them to keep workflow;
  • An electronic system is a solution to lead teams in multiple places.

What is Kanban?

Kanban, with a capital "K", is an evolutionary change method that uses a pull-system kanban, with a lowercase "k", and visualization among other tools to organize the team's progress in developing a project.

Kan-ban is a Japanese word that means “signal card”. The card is used in a manufacturing environment like a signal that says which step in the process it is.

What is the purpose of the Kanban method?

David J. Anderson believes that Kanban is the best way to introduce process changes, because of this, the main purpose of this system is a minimum resistance to change.

Additionally, the application of Kanban also acts on 8 other objectives that may be ideal for your business, they are:

  1. Improve the current process;
  2. High-quality delivery;
  3. Improve lead time predictability;
  4. Improving employee satisfaction;
  5. Providing slack to allow improvement;
  6. Simplify prioritization;
  7. Providing transparency in system design and operation;
  8. Design a process to enable the emergence of a high-maturity organization.

How does the kanban system work?

On a kanban board, several cards (kanbans) are distributed according to the capacity supported by the team, each card represents a job and signals the stage it is in.

A new job can only be started when a card is available, this card is taken from the right to the left in each step of the process. If a card is not available, it isn't possible to start a new job, when a job is finished, then this card is released and recycled to a new function.

To implement Kanban it is necessary to have an ongoing process, and the system comes to deploy improvements in this process.

Kanban Board

Source: Book "Kanban", page 14.

Which are the advantages of Kanban?

Kanban provides transparency in the work and the process by allowing visibility for all interested, accelerating organizational maturity and capability.

The author emphasizes that cultural changes are Kanban's best benefits, in the example that he gives in the book about method implementation in Corbis, employees felt more willing to follow leadership and also contribute to their colleagues.

The 6 steps of the Recipe for Success

The author tells that during a decade he was challenged to answer the question: “What steps does a manager need to take when inheriting an existent team, especially when it doesn't work in an agile way and can be completely dysfunctional?”

He explains that when asking people to change their behavior, this generates fear and low self-esteem because it looks like they are being devalued. Because of this, he developed what is called the “Recipe to Success”, make in 6 steps:

  1. Focus on quality;
  2. Reduce Work in Progress;
  3. Deliver frequently;
  4. Balance demand and performance;
  5. Prioritize;
  6. Attack sources of variability to improve predictability.

Kaizen Culture

The Japanese word Kaizen means “continuous improvement”, in the corporate world implies a culture where all the workers are focused on continuously improving productivity and customer satisfaction.

When a kaizen culture is implemented, the individuals feel free to act and make what is right.

“A kaizen culture involves a high level of collaboration and a collegial atmosphere where everyone looks out for team performance and business above itself.”

How to use the Kanban system on my project?

The essence to start to use Kanban is to change as little as possible and avoid changing the workflow, positions’ names, responsibilities, and specific work practices at the very beginning, just if during the process there is a need.

Steps to start Kanban:

  1. Define goals;
  2. Map the value chain, the sequence of actions;
  3. Determine the entry control point;
  4. Defina o ponto de saída que não precisa ser controlado;
  5. Define the output point that doesn’t need to be controlled;
  6. Analyze the demand for each of these sets and the delay tolerances;
  7. Meet involved stakeholders;
  8. Make wallboard to follow the value chain;
  9. Make an electronic board to make this follow-up;
  10. Set aside a time for daily stand-up meetings;
  11. Make regular operational reviews for retrospective process analysis;
  12. Educate the team to update the framework, about the limits of WIP and pull systems without changing any of their essential work.

How to make a Kanban board?

Before starting the board, you need to understand the pre-existent workflow, sketch it and start by drawing columns indicating the order of the activities to execute.

Kanban board example

Source: Book "Kanban", page 74.

If there is a need, add a buffer or other rows, and discuss with your team the best place to put them. Analyze the demand and distribute according to your team's capacity.

How to format a card in the Kanban board?

The main idea is that the card represents a discrete piece of the work to be done.

Kanban card example

Source: Book "Kanban", page 79.

The information contained there must make easier the pull system and the viewing of all interested parties:

  • The item title is written in the middle of the card;
  • Put the entry date of the item below on the left side;
  • The delivery date is placed below on the right side.

“A well-designed work item card is a key element of a high-trust culture and a Lean organization.”

How to use an electronic kanban system?

There are available electronic tools to use the kanban system digitally to complement the wallboard or as an alternative in the case of remote work.

According to the author, another advantage of the electronic kanban board is the possibility to generate metrics and reports daily.

How to maintain the kanban system?

Conduct daily stand-up meetings. Those meetings must happen in front of the cardboard wall, and ask questions about the cards that haven’t been moved for some time.

The author says that in cases of blocked steps, an after-meeting with two or three people is essential to solving problems. Row supply meetings and release planning meetings also help the kanban system.

In the case of a team that works remotely, using a “friend avatar” is suggested, in other words, another employee is responsible to move a card who is not in the office.

Defining Service Classes?

David Anderson indicates the use of service classes in the kanban system because they indicate the way in the work classification, determining priorities within the system.

The author indicates that using different colors of cards is the ideal way to define the service classes. Each color indicates a different class, but be sure to not define too many classes, follow this:

  • Expedition (silver bullet) - use white cards;
  • Fixed delivery date - use purple cards
  • Standard class - use yellow cards;
  • Intangible class - use green cards.

What metrics should I use in Kanban?

In the kanban system, the metrics are a little different from those normally used one agile project management. The metrics must show that:

  • The Kanban system is predictable and works as planned;
  • The organization is agile and focuses on the workflow;
  • The development is continuous improvement.

The most used metrics used by Kanban are:

  • Work in Progress (WIP) Monitoring;
  • Lead Time;
  • On-time delivery performance;
  • Yield;
  • Problems and blocked work items;
  • Flow efficiency;
  • Starting quality;
  • Loads and faults.

What is an Operational Review?

The Operational Review is an objective retrospective with a focus on data about the organization's performance. The author believes it is the cornerstone when seeking a Lean transition by implementing Kanban.

The main points to organize the Operational Review:

  • Prepare yourself before the meeting: organize data, papers, slides, and the presentations’ schedule;
  • Define the business’ tone from the beginning;
  • Invite all the participants to leave the audience and add value;
  • Set the main agenda: each manager should present his or her department performance;
  • Keep the right cadence: the author believes that this meeting must be monthly or quarterly and should last no longer than 2 hours.

What improvements are made with the Kanban method?

David Anderson explains that with Kanban it is possible to detect bottlenecks, remove waste and reduce variability more efficiently, from this it is possible to identify opportunities for improvement.

The author suggests the use of 3 techniques to evaluate these opportunities:

  1. Theory of Restrictions - Five Focusing Steps;
  2. Lean, TPS, and Waste Reduction;
  3. Deming and Six Sigma.

How to deal with process bottlenecks?

The Kanban system helps to identify the bottlenecks because of its transparency. It's important to lead with them because it limitate de workflow.

The incapacity to realize more jobs and the restricted availability are ways of perceiving the bottlenecks, to solve them, use the Five Focusing Steps:

  1. Identify the restriction;
  2. Decide how to explore the restriction;
  3. Make everything else in the system subordinate to the decision you made in Step 2;
  4. Elevate the restriction;
  5. Avoid inertia; identify the next constraint and return to Step 2.

How to manage the flow and cycle time problems with Kanban?

When a problem is perceived, the author suggests indicating in the cardboard wall using the colors pink or red.

Kanban card example

Source: Book "Kanban" page 248.

When a team member can’t proceed with any value step, he marks the item as blocked, attaching a pink ticket describing what is the reason for the block and also putting this information on electronic follow-up.

This problem will later be discussed in the daily stand-up meeting and the idlest members should be assigned to solve this blockage. If this team is not able to solve this problem, it is escalated to the senior manager or even another department.

The author suggests that resolution is done using reports of previous resolutions, problem diagrams, and blocked work items to visualize the development and diagnose the root cause.

More books about productivity and agile management

In the book "SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time", Jeff Sutherland teaches the needed concepts to apply this agile, adaptive, self-correcting approach to software development in all sectors of a business.

If you read "Sprint", written by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky e Braden Kowitz, find out how to innovate and validate an idea by testing it in just five days, and get ideas off the paper simply and easily.

With "The Pomodoro Technique", from Francesco Cirillo, learn how to use your time wisely to create more productive routines, increase focus, and achieve goals.

Ok, so how to implement Kanban in my project?

  • Create a board with physical and digital color cards;
  • Conduct daily stand-up meetings;
  • Reduce Work in Progress (WIP) to discuss blockages;
  • Conduct monthly or quarterly operational reviews;
  • Check out improvement opportunities using kanban metrics.

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Kanban, PDF