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Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban

Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban - Henrik Kniberg One of the more down to earth, real world looks at lean and agile that I've come across. In the first half of the book, Kniberg outlines how his team used lean/agile to implement a software system for the Swedish police. He describes how the process evolved, what worked, what didn't, and why. There is no preaching and minimal buzzwords. Everything is explained through practice, trial and error, and experience, including the parts they had not figured out how to solve. It's refreshing to see a book like this with a real world account instead of an attempt to market the agile or lean concepts.

The book contains photos and diagrams that help visualize the concepts. The second part of the book has "in a nutshell definitions" if a few concepts, including scrum and xp.

Some nice quotes from the book:

I don’t claim that our way of working is perfectly Lean. Lean is a direction, not a place. It’s all about continuous improvement.

The key to minimizing risk in large projects is to find a way to “slice the elephant,” that is, find a way to release the system in small increments instead of saving up for a big-bang release at the end.

The project board is probably the single most important communication artifact in the project. It provides a high-level picture of what is going on in the project and illustrates flow and bottlenecks in real time.

The speed of a project is largely determined by how well everyone understands what’s going on. If everyone knows where we are right now and where we’re going, it’s much easier for everyone to move in the same direction.

If people can agree on a goal that they believe in, this has an immensely positive effect on self-organization and collaboration. Conversely, if people don’t understand the goal or don’t believe the goal is achievable, they will unconsciously disassociate themselves from the business goal and focus on personal goals such as “have fun coding” or “just get my part of the work done and go home.”

One of the classes in our code base was getting way out of control and needed some significant refactoring, but there was some resistance to spending time on that. So, one of the team leads printed out the whole class and laid it across the conference table! It was more than 7 meters long (23 feet)!

Our process was discovered rather than designed.

The nice thing about gut feel is that it often is a leading indicator of a problem that’s about to occur, while hard metrics often show a problem only after it has occurred.

Perfection is a direction, not a place!

A great process isn’t designed; it is evolved. So, the important thing isn’t your process; the important thing is your process for improving your process.