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!
This article hits all those who like to be in the ruts of others, square in the forehead! Bingo!
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!
I have been banging my head on this subject of intractable processes for years! Nice to see the problem so well defined!
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!!!!!
Good work Brian in identifying rigid thinking as a problem that plagues successful agile adoption.
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!
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.
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.
The problem is most people are dogmatic thinkers, stuck in the same rut!!! Great post though!
Brian I enjoyed reading this! I am going to look at the rest of your posts.
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.
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.