Samstag, 5. Mai 2012

"Kanban does not work for XY"

Some time ago, I read in a blog post something like "Kanban is good for small teams, but it does not work for bigger teams." A couple of weeks later, someone told me "Kanban is appropriate for big teams, but it is nonsense for small teams." What I hear really often is: "Kanban might be good for maintenance teams, but it‘s not working for development teams." But at the same time people say: "Kanban can never work for operations teams." And of course there are rumors that "Kanban is not working in startup environments" or "Kanban is not working in big enterprise environments."

I think there‘s a misunderstanding about the nature of Kanban that causes people to tell such things. Kanban is not a software development method. And Kanban is not a project management method in the first place. Instead, Kanban is a change method. In this respect the answer to the question: "When does Kanban not work?" should be "If a team or organization does not want to change/improve".
And there is one more thing to this: Kanban focuses on improving the flow of value-added tasks. In his Keynote from Lean Kanban Benelux 2011 (which is highly recommended!) David Anderson argues that Kanban is not appropriate when your process does not suffer from overburdening or variability in flow.
That‘s it! If you want to improve and your process suffers from overburdening or variability in flow, Kanban might be an appropriate method. Of course that does not mean that you will automatically succeed with Kanban - there are still quite a lot of pitfalls.

What I‘ve observed during the past years from Kanban teams I‘ve worked with or met at other occasions is that there is a huge variety of contexts in which teams and organizations benefit from Kanban. For example there is e-netconsulting, a rather small web agency that is using an end-to-end Kanban systems (watch experience report from LKCE11). We have an IT department in an public institution that is using Kanban. Then there is Jimdo, a startup with more than 100 employees in three continents (watch experience report from LKCE11). We have SAP, one of the biggest enterprises in the world, where some teams are using Kanban (watch experience report from LKCE11). I‘m working with a company that is building a big database engine. Then there‘s a major dating platform which I visited recently. And we‘ve just started using Kanban at a company that is building a famous Smartphone App. Not to forget mobile.de - Europe‘s biggest online platform for used cars - which uses Kanban for site ops teams, dev teams as well as on a portfolio level. And theses are only the teams I know directly!
All these teams and organizations are completely different, their work is different, their customers are different, their technologies are different, their problems are different. And still they all find it useful to apply Kanban - all in a different way. Is Kanban the right tool for every organization? No! Is there a very wide range of contexts where Kanban is applicable? Yes!


Kommentare:

  1. Thanks, an interesting read. You stage that Kanban is not good for certain situations. Do you have examples on those envinronments?

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    1. Henri,

      as I mentioned: The team does not want to improve, or the process does not suffer from overburdening or unevenness in flow (which I‘ve never seen).
      And there might be one more situation: If there‘s really high pressure to change very rapidly, Kanban might be to slow. If an organization has to choose between revolution and death, I probably would‘t recommend Kanban.

      Cheers,
      Arne

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  2. I really like your post! There is one more topic: is kanban on team level (e.g. specialist teams like QA or support) kanban or personal kanban. They are primarily handling tasks on their board and usually only have a CONWIP system where no "real pull" is possible which smells like personal kanban. Nevertheless, they usually also have metrics in place, perform continuous improvements, do queue replenishments, etc. which are important elements of kanban. And even more important, they follow incremental, evolutionary change which is part of the Kanban method. I see it also very often that other departments (specialist teams) join their board sooner or later. So for me it's definitely kanban what they are doing. What do you think? I think, I'll address this at #klrat ;-)

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    1. Hi Klaus,

      thanks!
      I don‘t consider CONWIP not to be real pull. Why should it?
      For me the most important thing is: Did the team get the message about evolutionary change and does it improve? If the answer is yes, I think it‘s perfectly fine if they start with a weather shallow Kanban implementation and improve very slowly.
      And yes, it‘s a good topic for #klrat :-)

      Cheers,
      Arne

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    2. It's probably not CONWIP but the matter that often one person is working alone on one ticket across the board. So there are no hand-offs and pull is only done from the input queue. Happy to read that you agree in opinion :-)

      Cheers,
      Klaus

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