Book Review: Kanban

David Anderson
Kanban. Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business.

Kanban is the latest book by David Anderson, the author of Agile Management for Software Engineering: Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results. While searching for sustainable software development and successful change management, David expanded the ideas of Theory of Constraints and Lean Manufacturing. The new methods got their first real-world implementation at Corbis and Microsoft and the results are presented in this book.

Kanban systems have been gaining popularity in software development and information technology. They represent a pull-system approach, which produces what the next process needs when it needs it. Thus, the new work is pulled into the system when there is a capacity to handle it.

Kanban systems often visualize the development workflow and all work in progress (WIP) on a card wall, where each card represents a single work item. If your objectives are to improve lead time predictability and increase throughput, you can achieve them by limiting WIP, identifying and alleviating bottlenecks, and reducing variability.

The book is very informative, filled with practical ideas and rich examples on how to:

  • Handle different types of work
  • Set initial WIP limits and input queue size
  • Introduce queues to absorb variation and maintain flow
  • Buffer bottlenecks to ensure smooth flow in the system and avoid idle time in the bottlenecks
  • Cope with multiple concurrent and unordered activities
  • Cope with impediments
  • Support hierarchical requirements
  • Manage shared resources

I greatly enjoyed reading David's book and hope you will like it as much as I have. My only recommendation for the next edition of this book is to have card-wall pictures printed in color.

Happy reading!

December book review: The Goal

Eliyahu M. Goldratt
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

I will finish this year by reviewing another very entertaining and thought-provoking business novel: The Goal. It tells a story of Alex Rogo, a manufacturing plant manager, whose personal and professional lives are quickly falling apart. In fact, Alex has only 90 days to save his plant and his job, and even less time to save his marriage. How is he going to do it?

The book slowly introduces Alex to the principles of the theory of constraints (TOC). The principles are common-sense and very simple to understand. Occasionally, they may even feel overly simplistic, but they are exactly what Alex needs to know at the right point of time. The TOC ideas allowed Alex to see beyond false productivity metrics accepted at his organization and start measuring and improving his plant performance in terms of throughput, inventories, and operating expenses.

The settings of the book is a manufacturing plant, but even if you are not a plant manager, the chances are you will enjoy reading this book and should have no problem applying the principles described there in your organization.

Happy reading!

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