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#LK2009 Willeke, Shinkle, and Laribee

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: #LK2009 Willeke, Shinkle, and Laribee

This is going to be the last set of talks for the day. The Kanban talks, somewhat unlike the Lean talks yesterday, has been mostly experience report type presentations. It has been really cool.. all the speakers have done a great job… but we are getting to a point where there is not a tremendous amount of differentiation between the stories. I am going to try to keep these next few summaries centered around the “a-ha” moments where the speakers add something new to the conversation.

Eric Willeke: The Inkubook Experience: A Tale of 5 Processes

Eric works for a small company called Inkubook that builds self-publishing website. The presentation was really unique becuase it was totally visual… totally picture based… even the agenda which was a photo of a Kanban board… very clever. This talk was really more like a story… a story about Eric’s journey to discover a process that worked for his time.

Just to give you a little background on their situation… if we have learned nothing this week… context is everything. His team had a constantly changing backlog… an agressive timeline to deliver (2 months or so)… and team of specialists. They tried scrum but it just wasn’t working for their team. It seemed that the specialization around the analysts was causing problems getting the sprint started on time.

After several iterations of trying new things… pulling the BA out… putting the BA back in… pulling the architect out… putting the architect back in… they started doing some Kanban like process control. Eric told a great story about being sure not to call what they were doing Kanban… if the label stuck… that early transition process would be called Kanban.

Eric’s team focused in process maturity around Kanban… introduced queues across the team… they had implicit work limits (the team just seemed to get it)… and established flow across their development process. They got hit with an unexpected layoff and the Kanban process allowed them to recover in less than a day. Their SLA stayed the same but the throughput of the team went down accordingly. It was the specialized analysts that took the brunt of the downsizing. After the team learned how to interact with marketing directly… their throughput actually recovered.

At this stage of the conference… there were really no new ideas presented. Eric did make an interesting comment that his team had gotten so good at single piece flow… they no longer felt the need to use the Kanban board… they just know where things are all the time. He drew no conclusions about their findings but assured the community that he would let us know how things are working out.

It was really cool hearing the transition story, how the team learned from their mistakes, and how they inspected and adapted their way to a pretty cool Kanban implementation.

The other thing that was really cool is that you can tell the speakers are learning from each other. Folks are referencing other speakers in their talks and changing their content on the fly to reflect what they learned. So far… this has been one of the most interactive learning experiences I have ever been a part of… and that is saying something for a conference that was not designed as an open space. So far… no one has wasted my time… and I have a pretty low tolerance for speakers that don’t deliver.

Chris Shinkle: Embracing Kanban, A case study examining how Kanban has been integrated into Software Engineering Professional (SEP)

This talk is shaping up to be one of my favorites so far. Chris starts his talk by explaining his particular context… 4-6 month projects… 4-6 people per team. They have many transitional projects where they frequently stop and start… go on hold and come off hold. The company was agile friendly and had tried implementing FDD… but the transition did not have lasting impact. Once things got widespread… agile was met with resistance. Can you guess what they tried next ;-)

Chris takes a totally different perspective than the other speakers on Kanban today. He introduces the transition to Kanban by introduces the Dreyfus model of learning. If any of you guys are familiar with Aistair Cockburn’s Shu-Ha-Ri methaphor… this is very similar. The Dreyfus model has five levels: novice, advanced beginner, competend, proficient, and expert. The talk centers around the Kanban related behaviors related to their progression through the Dreyfus model… very enlightening.

Here is a quick summary of what Chris observed as the team moved through the various stages of the Dreyfus model:

Novice – Using the Kanban board as a task tracking system with no regard for WIP. One advantage was that it illustrated the development process and exposed it to the team. They could see what they were doing and had a better understanding of what everyone else was doing.

Advanced Beginner – At this point, the WIP limits being followed. Teams started to understanding the impact of blocked work items and the cost of re-work.

Competent – The whole team participated and had a sense of ownership. They ought out alternate practices and discovered BDD, TDD, Pair programming, Modeling, and pair code reviews. They started seeing the effects of the changes they made and discovered lean principles for themselves.

Chris made a quick acknowledgment here that without emotional involvement you will never move past the competent level of development…

Proficient – Throughput and reducing cycle time became the primary focus. The team began to focus on the other roles… not just their own… they started looking at optimizing the whole. They became focused on reducing swim lanes and work in progress. Kaisen moments became more commonplace

By using Kanban the team started learning lean… in this case process led to an increased understanding of the principles.

Expert – Team never got to that… could take 5 to 15 years.

This was a great talk and an interesting gear shift from the other experience reports we have heard earlier in the afternoon. Looking forward to hearing David Laribee up next…

David Laribee: A Leaner Form of Agility

David sets up this talk by discussing is role at XClaim… the company he joined prior to joining VersionOne. David was the product owner and coach and involved with all elements of development and process design.

The first half of David’s talk focuses on process and his experience developing the Kanban system at XClaim. David is a BIG believer that values drive your choice of practices and that practices drive your choice of tools. If you don’t know what your team values… you need to go back and figure it out. David is also a big believer in collaborative process design… people support a world they help create. He goes on to explain how his team at XClaim went about designing their Kanban board.

David explained how practices increase performance… but that over time… the team will plateau. The only way to get better is to eliminate waste. He tells this great story about a team of phychologists that decide to pay people to dig holes. At the end of the day… the holes are covered over. The diggers are told they will be paid double if they come back tomorrow to dig more holes. Over time… people stop coming becuase they value meaningful work.

By elimating waste… you not only make things faster… but you engage your team in meaningful work. David talked about how Kanban is a window into how we work and that processes should emerge… start with the simplest thing possible and only add steps and practices as they are deemed necessary by the team. Reflect what you are doing now… first… and optimize for essence over ceremony.

The second half of David’s talk is about the engineering practices that support Lean practices.

David highlights why Scrum is failing… it is due to the lack of solid engineering practices as the foundation. He goes on to describe how stories and tasks need to be independent, but that pairs of pairs can be deployed, that we can use set based concurrent engineering to solve some of these problems. He talks a bit about how teams can use BDD… composite applications… feature inboxes… a highlights some companies that are doing this stuff in their lean enterprises.

At this point, David is splashing code up on the screen so I have to admit… I tuned out a little bit. This was the most technical talk of the conference and worth checking oout the InfoQ video when it is posted. It was cool hearing David talk since we both work for VersionOne… he did a great job… so next time… check him out.

Next Announcing the Formation of the Lean Software & Systems Consortium

Comment (1)

  1. Dave

    Thanks for the summary and kind words, Mike!


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