The Kanban Drama (a summary)

For those of you who don’t have time to follow along with every twist and turn in the ongoing struggle between Kanban connoisseurs and the rest of the software development world in general I would like to take this opportunity to summarize my impressions of what has happened over the last five years. It takes the shape of a short play. It’s a summary so I have taken the liberty of slightly shortening and abstracting history. Only slightly. Enjoy!


Scottish guy: I hereby proclaim that I am the 1st in the world to apply some TPS concepts that I like to the development of software. I will call it Kanban so that no one would get it mixed up with kanban, the TPS pull mechanism.

World: Ooh, shiny! Behold: The Kanban Software Development Process. Scottish guy, we will now follow your example. It seems new. And shiny.

Scottish guy: It’s not shiny! It’s based on a solid theoretical foundation. Anyway, I think three principles are not enough. Policies and collaboration seem important too. Oh, and leadership. Very important.

World: We mostly have big-ass whiteboards. That’s Kanban, right? We don’t want to go all-in with WIP limits and stuff.

Scottish guy: (sighs) Well… we certainly don’t want to exclude anyone. But wait! Stop! It’s not a development process at all. It’s more like a change process… I know! It’s an organizational transition meta-model. Yes, that’s it.

World: Yes, absolutely! Whatever you say, Scottish guy. We like the Kanban Software Development Process and it’s frivolous use of whiteboard space. That is what we use. Please certify us.

Scottish guy: Uneducated morons!

World: – (shrugs, fingers shiny process)