Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business

By David J. Anderson

A Review by Thomas M. Calgey Jr.

Kanban is not a household word in the information technology world.  That fact, however, might be about to change because of David J. Anderson’s new book, Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business.  Mr. Anderson has provided the IT world with a very assessable treatment of a concept that has been embraced by many organizations in the manufacturing world but has made slower progess in the IT environment.  In a progressive series of steps, Mr. Anderson walks the reader through how Kanban works with real life examples.  The mixture of theory and practice provide the reader with food for thought and practical advice that can be applied the real world.

Kanban, which means signal card in Japanese, has been a staple in auto manufacturing through its application in the Toyota Production System (and in lean manufacturing environments).  Fitting kanban into product development and systems engineering has been more problematic.  More typical IT processes work through a process of pushing work through IT processes with work piling up at bottlenecks.  Kanban works by pulling work though the development value chain (David points out that any workflow that involves a division of labor can be defined as a value stream) rather so that work-in-process (WIP) is minimized.  Kanban is a simple concept but its application can challenge many of our previously held notions of how IT organizations should work.  Here is an example of a concept that is presented in Mr. Anderson’s book:  The concept of kanban forces you to reconsider the definition of a project.  Kanban creates a predictable flow of individually prioritized work items coupled with periodic releases which doesn’t fit the common definition of an IT project.  This is a potentially heady discussion but David provides a step-by-step approach that will leave you wondering why you haven’t integrated Kanban into your shop sooner.

Kanban as a concept and methodology is not for the faint of heart, but if you want to wrestle with effectiveness and efficiency, if you want to minimize work in process with the attendant reduction in risk and overhead then. Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David J. Andersen is the place to start.  Kanban might not be a household word today but tomorrow will be another story.