By Brian Lucas

This one is for everyone who struggles to change the dogmatic processes that the ignorant employ in a futile attempt to control what they don’t truly understand.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
― Rupertus Meldenius

Yes, I am shouting! OK, maybe I am not being as charitable as Rupertus would like, but the circumstances are mitigating.  Because once again, I have been asked the question of Scrum vs Lean vs Kanban vs Crystal vs XP vs DSDM -ARRGH!!!  Agile by its very nature places an emphasis on the goal and not the means to achieve that goal.  “Agile is at its root – adaptation in furtherance of accomplishment.”  If you are dogmatically following a process, even a specific agile process, instead of adapting your activity to successfully achieve the goal; you are NOT agile!

I once had an argument while serving on a round table dais with a Kanban proponent over my definition of the use of Kanban in an agile method.  He replied primly that I was not using the “correct” definition of Kanban.  For the sake of argument, I defined the three elements that Kanban was designed to eliminate:

1) MUDA which is not creating value for the customer, in other words WASTE

2) MURA which is any variation leading to unbalanced situations, in other words UNEVENNESS

3) MURI which is any activity of unreasonable stress or effort, in other words OVERBURDEN

I asked my erstwhile colleague, what benefit a discussion of these Japanese terms had to our discussion other than being generic truisms for any activity.  I then reminded him,  KANBAN is a Japanese word that means “sign”.  What could possibly be wrong with my emphasis on the visual aspect of Kanban?  I certainly was not saying it was the ONLY definition or benefit.  At that point, we actually reached an agreement.

A Kanban is used to control work in progress (WIP) in a manufacturing line.  The concept has been applied to software development in several different ways.  Kanban is sometimes erroneously contrasted with Scrum.  The problem most people make is one of strict interpretation of the process and not understanding Kanban in terms of the needs of an agile effort.

So Kanban is not a replacement for agile. It is a supplemental method for managing work in progress that provides a simple and ubiquitous communication vehicle to all stakeholders and team members. Communication is a vitally important key in smooth agile execution.  The Kanban method is a terrific way to keep iterations on track and everyone synced up.  Kanbans (driven by simple, nifty software applications) should be everywhere on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Most importantly, they should be on a big screen TV in your scrum meeting room.  I favor electronic methods of communication for their efficiency, but the psychological aspect of having a large, electronic status board shouting the progress (or lack thereof) can be an incredible motivator.  I have personally observed the simple addition of a Kanban board turn a failing agile project around in less than a month.

So PLEASE do not get locked into a dogmatic process!  Keep your eyes, ears and minds open at all times for something that can help you make your work more productive and your life easier.  Even if the idea is not 100% right for you, ADAPT it and remember to keep agile!


About Brian Lucas

In his life, Brian Lucas has been a coach, farm worker, forester, health care advocate, life guard, general contractor, mechanic, mixologist, musician/singer (in a rock group), salesman and teacher. Brian has worked as a project manager, technical marketer, methodologist, manager, software architect, systems designer, data modeler, business analyst, systems programmer, software developer and creative writer. These efforts include over a hundred hi-tech initiatives in almost every business and industrial sector as well as government and military projects. Among them, he designed and developed a quality assurance system for the first transatlantic fiber optic communications network, a manufacturing system for a large computer manufacture’s seven manufacturing centers, a data mining system for steel production, an instrumentation system for cable systems, defined requirements for government’s information systems and designed and developed human performance management systems. Brian has educated and mentored many over the years, designing programs to discover and develop talent. He has also lectured extensively to a variety of audiences. Brian is currently devoting as much time as possible to the innovation of business agility and human capital management along with the next generation of agile software development. As an amateur theoretical physicist he is working on joining general relativity and quantum mechanics through a multidimensional time corollary on string theory and negating the uncertainty principle with Louis de Broglie’s wave/particle hypothesis. He is also an avid blue-water sailor and wilderness backpacker. He enjoys billiards, boxing, chess, cooking, famous battle reenactments and war gaming, fencing, flying, gardening, horseback riding, martial arts (particularly Ninjutsu), philosophy and psychology, playing musical instruments (7 so far), poker, rapid-fire target shooting, reading (he tries to read a new book every night), painting with oils, scuba diving, skiing and recently writing novels.
This entry was posted in Agile and Strategic Planning, Agile Arguments, Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development, Agile in the Enterprise, Agile Thinking, Agile Tool and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Elan Molina says:

    This article hits all those who like to be in the ruts of others, square in the forehead! Bingo!

    • Brian Lucas says:

      There are people who like to stand in line, people who like to just follow orders and people who don’t want to think about their work. That is the unfortunate end of the spectrum. There are others who want some guidance or just don’t want to reinvent the wheel or perhaps just don’t do well with a blank sheet of paper. They are the backbone of productivity. Then there are those who question and examine every assumption. They are the progenitors of innovation! Thanks for commenting Elan!

  2. Aaron Gaylord says:

    I have been banging my head on this subject of intractable processes for years! Nice to see the problem so well defined!

  3. Darlene Walbert says:

    Hey Brian, SUPER blog. I was looking for a new source for trends in software development and I ran across Keeping Agile. You certainly cover a wide range of subjects here. You are the most informative and entertaining writer I have ever met on a technical subject!!!!!

  4. Anson Burkhalt says:

    Good work Brian in identifying rigid thinking as a problem that plagues successful agile adoption.

  5. Robert Weber says:

    This is a must read for everyone who thinks they are agile just because they use scrum! Oh don’t get me wrong, I think scrum or at least a modified scrum is a great way to do software development. Brian takes agile to a whole new level and rightly so. Dogmatic thinking has always been the enemy of innovation. If you are a strict process follower you are not agile. No two ways about it!

  6. Georgette Holbein, CSM, MCSD, PMP says:

    I agree with Robert. I might put it this way, Agile should be more about success and results not process and how you got there. We have used agile for the last ten years and are constantly modifying how we approach our software development.

  7. Richard Benchley says:

    I love your titles Brian! Keep shouting out your wisdom, some of us idiots are listening! Seriously, don’t stop posting. Its been a while.

  8. Aaron Beltzer says:

    The problem is most people are dogmatic thinkers, stuck in the same rut!!! Great post though!

  9. Joan Dinnerstein says:

    Brian I enjoyed reading this! I am going to look at the rest of your posts.

  10. Cherry2000 says:

    It seems to me that you are constantly reinventing your thinking Brian on every subject that you encounter. What an amazing way to look at life, but then you seem to be a very amazing person. Love to connect with you on Facebook.

  11. Isarapon Sin says:

    Greeting from Thailand 🙂

    Sometimes I was confused that what I am doing is effort or dogmatic.
    Working in Japanese organization is not easy. Anyway it’s challenge! for me.
    Thank you for good articles Brian.

    Isaraporn S.

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