The Relationship of Agile and Lean (continued)–the example of the Kanban Method

In my review of the chapter 2 of Introduction to Agile of the Agile Practice Guide, I am constantly surprised by the insights I’ve gained into the world of agile.   Of course I was expecting to learn about the history of agile which I got with the history of the Agile Manifesto and the 12 agile principles that are the underpinning of the agile mindset.

However, I didn’t expect that the Agile Alliance would consider that agile, coming out of a software application area, would consider itself a descendant of lean thinking, which comes out of a manufacturing system.   But as it explains on p. 12 of the Guide,, this shared heritage is similar because it focuses on

  • delivering value (and eliminating that which does not add value)\
  • respect for people
  • being transparent
  • adapting to change
  • continuously improving
  • focusing on the best outcome regardless of the approach used

The Kanban method is inspired by the lean-manufacturing system and emerged in the mid-2000s as an alternative to the more formal agile methods that were prevalent at the time.  I had the pleasure of coaching a speaker at the PMI Global Project Management Conference held in Chicago at 2017 who spoke on Kanban methods.   I coached her not because I was an expert on Kanban but because I was a member of the PMI Chicagoland Toastmasters club and as a Distinguished Toastmaster, I offered to help those speakers at the conference who were delivering a talk for the first time and wanted some pointers about how to present their talk in such a way to get their content across in a way that would project confidence and engage the audience in their material.

What I got out of the experience was how much fun the Kanban method was for people who participated in it.   I’ve heard project management called a lot of things, but fun was rarely an adjective used to describe it.  But it was because it was transparent, and people got to react to people, and not to processes, that it became so much more a human endeavor.   That’s why I took out of her talk, and that’s what increased my interest in its relationship to agile project management.

On p. 13 of the Agile Practice Guide, it says that the Kanban Method is the original “start-where-you-are” approach that can be applied with relative ease, and that project teams can progress towards other agile approaches as they deem necessary or appropriate.

Although it was conceived in and around lean manufacturing, it is now widely used in agile settings.

Annex A3 of the Agile Practice Guide goes through more details of the Kanban Method, and I will cover that in a later post.



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