Kanban can be very useful during Agile Transformation

Some days ago I was in a Jeep for 8 passengers, plus 2 seats counting with the driver, with a suspension higher than usual, the normal safari jeep… a wild Indian elephant can be taller and bigger than this jeep… amazing… If the elephant is busy and we are not annoying him, he doesn’t pay attention to us. But if he is scared or nervous with something, he can be very aggressive with humans. This scene makes me think about Kanban as a possible introduction to Agile in the big corporations, big “elephants”. Sharing my thoughts with you about it! 🙂

(Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka) – I started to write this post 4 days ago, when I saw wild elephants in their natural habitat for the first time in my life. It was scaring, they are so big! And I thought that big corporations act like big elephants against changes like Agile transformation. It came immediately to my mind that Kanban, with his evolutionary approach, can be a very pragmatic introduction to Agile. Let me explain you why!when elephants are with hungry and pass the electric cables and enter in farms nearby.

As I wrote in the post introduction, this scene with the elephants fighting, made me think about the reactions from big corporations to Agile Transformation: scare, fear, resistance, values outlining and also, sometimes, having some kind of negative feeling towards the agilists.

This made me think that perhaps Kanban can be an interesting starting point due to the fact that starts from the present reality and processes in place, has no specific roles or big changes in the current structure in place.

Kanban requires from someone normally with roles like product manager the task of understand customer needs and expectations, order the tasks by relevance for the end goal, plan them at the Replenishment Meeting.  This is what is normally called by Service Request Manager. As counter-part this role has the Service Delivery Manager, exactly as the names says responsible for the delivery to the customer.

Another aspect where Kanban can be better accepted is the fact that doesn’t have a regular fixed cadence, works in a continuous flow where if the team decides that have value to deliver, deploys a product release. This can be good to please the product owner, some demanding stakeholders or tho solve a urgent and critical issue affecting customers or an urgent answer to the market (competition).

So Kanban is not only an evolutionary approach but also accepts and integrates change with less discussion.

Some authors speak about hybrid models, where teams adopt some practices from 2 Agile methods, like Scrum and Kanban together (“scrumban”).

Some other authors defend that Kanban is not Agile. For them Kanban can be used as a “Trojan Horse”, because is more about a delivery process workflow, supported by the Kanban board, bringing transparency about where we are in the project. Kanban doesn’t imply a values shift, it will not imply to be Agile but only follow a workflow process against a delivery goal based in regular alignment points, supported by visualization assets. So Kanban is not Agile for those authors if the Agile values are not in the individual mindsets.

We should consider that many organizations are simply not ready to shift their employees mentality, and the cost to apply Scrum can be higher than simply use Kanban to try to educated them, first in Agile practice and then, perhaps, in Agile Values. But take care with the nervous elephant 🙂

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