Kanban at Trondheim XP & Agile Meetup, Feb. 7

On Monday, February 7, I’m talking about Kanban at Trondheim XP & Agile Meetup.

It’s something I’m passionate about, so I’m excited.
Topics include:
  • “Kanban 101”, or how to get started with simple Kanban
  • Agile Basics, or why Kanban works
  • “Kanban 201”, or what’s next
After the meetup I’ll make slides available here.
More information about the meetup (in Norwegian):

Lightning Talk at Smidig 2010 on Agile Basics

Last fall I had a lightning talk at the Norwegian conference Smidig 2010.
I talked about an important topic: what really works and why, in other words, Agile Basics.It went ok, I guess, at least considering it was my first time speaking at a conference.  Next time I’ll try to improve a couple of things:1. I’ll be less nervous… I managed to present what I had prepared calmly and clearly, but my nervousness prevented my passion for the topic from coming through.

2. I’ll follow through on subtopics.  F.ex. on visualization, I ended up mentioning the banal fact that a task board is an example of visualization, when I really wanted to say something about a team and it’s context. F.ex. how a task board that’s visible for everyone promotes a shared mental model between people both in the team and among the stakeholders, and therefore enables much more effective thinking and communication when developing software.


Agile Basics: Visualize More

If you visualize more you get more agile.

Tom Wujec had an excellent TED talk on 3 ways the brain creates meaning.

  • Use images to clarify ideas
    Visual shapes, physical space, colors, motion help us create mental model, more understanding
  • The act of engaging, being interactive enriches mental model
  • Augment memory by creating persistent, evolving views

Let’s say you have a task board for a software development team, either a physical one or a digital one shown on a screen as a dashboard. Let’s say it’s visible in an office so that everyone on and outside the team sees it several times a day.

  • People in and around the team gain a shared mental model, a shared understanding.
  • People interact with the board as things change, including upstream and downstream stakeholders. A visible task board creates more engaged stakeholders.
  • A task board is persistent and evolving, and becomes a new visual, domain-specific language of sorts, where the domain is the reality of the development team.
    This language is a more abstract, high-level language, and enables much more effective thinking, communication, and collaboration.

A software development team communicate and collaborate better the more they visualize the work.

How can you visualize more to gain advantages like that?  Here’s a few examples:
  • Let workflow on task board be closer to reality
  • Show different types of work differently
  • Let a status screen display a virtual task board permanently
  • Are you working in a traditional waterfall project? Regularly print the latest version of the project plan (and progress) and put it on the wall.
  • Show more policies like DoDs, increase transparency
  • Are you doing CI or continuous builds? Create alerts or alarms for failures, include status on status screens.
  • Show problems and impediments clearly
  • Do you share status on sales, bugs, product upgrades, project progress, project backlog etc in monthly or weekly meetings? Make status visible for everyone at anytime via screen or paper.

Being Agile

Agility is about balance and speed, and being able to change and adapt to change. 

It’s not a binary state, something you are or not, but a question of degree.  You, or your team or company, are more or less agile.

agile leopard http://www.flickr.com/photos/42429527@N03/5063150948/

From the dictionary:

  • ability to move with quick easy grace
  • having an adaptable character
  • synonyms: light-footed, nimble
  • related words: flexible, limber, dexterous
  • near antonyms: inflexible, stiff

In my opinion, being agile is not the same as using a specific method, tool, or process, or following a specific philosophy.

Agile does not equal Scrum, even if Scrum is an agile process.

Agile software development is not defined by the agile manifesto, even if I agree with most of it.

Getting more agile “simply” means to increase your ability to adapt – getting real feedback more often, and improving your ability to change and adjust.

Enterprise agility is the ability to respond quickly to unfolding events or opportunities, according to David Anderson.  Getting more agile in the enterprise involves, among other things, increasing trust and minimizing resistance to change (i.e., improvements).

(This blogpost is subject to updates…)

JavaScript Unit Testing with Hudson and JasmineBDD


  • JasmineBDD, a JavaScript BDD/ TDD framework
  • The JUnitXmlReporter from Jasmine Reporters
  • Envjs (embedded with the Jasmine Reporters download)
  • Hudson Jenkins (continuous integration server) on a Linux slave


  • let Hudson execute a (Java) shell command
  • let Java run Envjs
  • let Envjs run a simple JavaScript which loads an HTML file (your JasmineBDD test runner)


The Java command:
java -cp lib/envjs/js.jar:lib/envjs/jline.jar org.mozilla.javascript.tools.shell.Main -opt -1 -f lib/envjs/envjs.bootstrap.js -f test.js
(The libs and the bootstrap file came with Envjs in the Jasmine Reporters download.)

The test.js content:
window.location = 'SpecRunner.html';
(I.e., opening the JasmineBDD spec runner.)

Simple Unit Testing Only

So far, this only works for simple unit testing for me.  F.ex., it won’t play nice with prototype (which is really integration testing, but still).

It’s probably got something to do with Envjs’ limitations compared to a full web browser.

But hey, headless automatic JavaScript unit testing ain’t bad 🙂

@ingesol got Hudson to run Jasmine using JsTestDriver and Jasmine JsTestDriver Adapter.  (See guide to Hudson and JSTD.)

It’s not headless – requires running JSTD server and browsers, but it will handle prototype et al.

Update 2:

Headless testing as described above is not only for simple unit testing – jQuery works fine, too.  There’s advantages to running a JsTestDriver server, especially catching browser quirks, but for much of the BDD/ TDD effect (testable code, design, executable requirements, etc) you can run headless testing continuously in Hudson without any “external help”…

Kanban is Agile Jazz

XP2010 had a banquet including a jazz keynote by a couple of seasoned, Norwegian jazz musicians, Jon Pål Inderberg (sax, vocals, body percussion) and Bjørn Alterhaug (double bass). They performed for us, and talked about improvisation and things like structure, freedom, trust, etc. It was food for thought and a great experience.
I’ve seen other metaphors for software development, such as gardening, cleaning a kitchen, making a film, technical debt, construction, and martial arts. Last week I was inspired by the jazz keynote and by @agilemanager to think about musical performance as a metaphor.

XP2010 had a banquet including a jazz keynote by a couple of seasoned, Norwegian jazz musicians, Jon Pål Inderberg (sax, vocals, body percussion) and Bjørn Alterhaug (double bass). They performed for us, and talked about improvisation and things like structure, freedom, trust, etc.  It was food for thought and a great experience.

I’ve seen other metaphors for software development, such as gardening, cleaning a kitchen, making a film, technical debt, construction, and martial arts.  Last week I was inspired by the jazz keynote and by @agilemanager to think about musical performance as a metaphor.

twitter-challenge.pngPlan, Flexibility

What to play in a concert is decided in advance – for a classical concert well in advance, and in detail.  A jazz band, however, often finalizes the playlist just before the concert, even modifying the playlist as the concert goes on.

The plan for the performance of a single jazz tune is often subject to variation and “planned uncertainty”. For example, the band knows where an improvisation part starts, and knows on what cue to move to the next part, but they don’t know in advance what happens in between or how long the part is going to be.

twitter-agile-audience-s.pngThe adaptive nature of a jazz concert or a song enables an agile response to change. There is focus on flow towards delivering value to the customer (and each other), instead of doing a certain amount of ordered work. Circumstances can be taken into account, like the mood of the audience, interruptions, etc.

Errors, Learning

Mistakes will be made.
If you trust your fellow musicians and the structure permits it, you might even take greater risks, either gaining greater value or learning valuable lessons from failures.

From the jazz keynote: Embracing Errors as a Source of Learning

A successful jazz concert produces an amount of music that’s never been played before, while a successfull classical concert should vary only in subtle interpretation details. F.ex., it was unusual for Miles Davis to practice with his band; he wanted to hear something new in each concert, and said to them that they were being paid to rehearse on stage.

Whatever type of music, a good musician spends time learning her craft, both practicing by themself and doing music with others.

Collaboration, WIP Limits

Have you noticed that during a drum improvisation the rest of the band dials back, sometimes all the way back?  Some instruments playing less makes more room for others, there’s imitation and learning from each other, and there’s collaboration and conversation going on.

Sometimes a composer (of any kind of music) or a jazz performer impose restrictions in order to foster creativity.   Those limits can be rhythmical, tonal, or on any degree of freedom. (Cue “One Note Samba“…)  Such limits increase throughput of ideas, and give more room for important information that the composer or musician might want to accentuate.
Instead of everybody doing “their own thing”, a jazz musician can be quiet, listen, and then contribute to what the others are doing.  Slack, i.e., doing nothing and listening, makes room for others and opens you up for creativity.  You can be ready and agile, and then contribute where the song is going.

Kanban is Agile Jazz

Don’t get me wrong: I love lots of classical music, and I think there’s room for various agile tools in a software development toolbox.

However, jazz is one of the most adaptive styles – and kanban is one of the most adaptive tools, with focus on flow, WIP limits, starting with the existing process and continuously improving step by step.

Thumbnail image for twitter-scott-unique.png


Lean: Development is not Manufacturing

The conclusions of lean manufacturing theories are not necessarily valid in the domain of (software) product development.

There’s good reasons why it’s so difficult to fix time, budget, and feature scope all at once in a software development project.

I’ve been listening to a talk by Don Reinertsen, and one of his points, although not the main point, is about variability:  if you could reduce variability in the workflow by 10%, or you could reduce capacity utilization by 10%, by far you would prefer to reduce capacity utilization.  That’s where the economic payoff is.

The reason is that increased capacity utilization increases queue size and lead time exponentially.  In other words, if you try to keep all your resources busy all the time, everything takes forever to finish.  This goes for both manufacturing and development.  Variability in workflow, however, is bad in manufacturing, but can’t be avoided in product development, and might even be exploited.

So what else is different about development compared to manufacturing?

Manufacturing Development
Tasks are…. repetitive non-repetitive
Tasks are… predictable unpredictable
Requirements are… a constraint a degree of freedom
Requirements are… fixed evolving
Cost of delay is… homogeneous non-homogeneous
Task durations are… homogeneous non-homogeneous
Variability is… always waste not always waste
Inventory is… physical objects information
Inventory is… visible invisible

A talk by Don Reinertsen,
Second Generation Lean Product Development: From Cargo Cult to Science

agile adoption fails in a “fixed project situation”

i saw an interesting article on infoq.com.

the term “fixed bid” is used in the article, but this article applies to another “fixed project situation“, too, i.e., where the resources are fixed, and there’s a specified, promised feature scope and a specified, promised delivery date. 

(btw, it isn’t really possible to control all of resources, delivery date, and scope and quality of features at the same time…)

In an agile software team you don’t estimate your work till right
before you begin. And you only estimate, in the case of Scrum, the next
iterations work. So how do you know how long it will take? You don’t.
Furthermore, you really don’t care.
You’ll continue to deliver
functionality every iteration. As soon as product management and QA say
you have a good enough product; it’ll be released as a production
version. You might have a guess, but until the team estimates it….you
really don’t know long it will take.

In a fixed bid situation….your estimation needs to take place up front.
In the 2nd scenario, if I told the team, … “we’re using Scrum”: they’d estimate the work
the next iteration. They would assume their estimates would be taken
seriously and you’d give them time to complete the work as it unfolds
regardless of whether their estimates fit your original project funding
or not. That’s only fair.

alternatively: they would assume they’d get the “time to complete the work with high quality regardless of whether their updated estimates fit your original project plan and delivery date or not”.

[this leads to failure]….at managing the project and therefore…….”this agile thing doesn’t work”.

The mistake was to assume the company’s leadership … was
organizationally committed to … agile principles. The mere fact
that they are asking you to estimate the funding you’ll need to
complete the project tells us otherwise.

alternatively: the fact that they are asking you to commit to a fixed feature set and a fixed delivery date tells us otherwise. 

this isn’t bad, per se, it just isn’t agile.

[the real problem]

  • Agile is often assumed … to be a development process with no impact on budgeting. This is not the case.
  • Development teams assume leadership understands the implications of adopting agile at the budgetary level.

Developers and development teams often have zero visibility into
budgeting so they are unaware of how their agile efforts are being
accounted for in monetary terms. …. Likewise, management is often ignorant of
development and specifically agile development practices. Agile
adoption requires education to ease the clash and misunderstanding of
these two worlds.

So what are some of the consequences of attempting to adopt agile
practices on a fixed bid project
…essentially laying an agile façade
over the waterfall project

Agile does away with the need for a project manager. …. organizing and managing the development effort are more centered on
technical leadership, task and risk management. Timelines and budgets
go out the door.
if you’re in a non-agile situation … then traditional PM practices are … essential

Doing iteration planning in a fixed bid situation will almost certainly
result in confusion, budget variances, and/or loss of functionality.


In fixed bid scenarios the question is not … how much
functionality the team is doing per time period
. It really doesn’t
matter. They need to get all the functionality done

So using … iterations in a fixed bid project sends the wrong signal to the team and your customers.

using iterations in a fixed project situation sends the wrong signal to the team.

you can still visualize workflow, f.ex. with kanban, reduce work in process, do stand up meetings (very short, impediments only), etc.

but in general you should try to get out of a fixed project situation before trying to go agile.

Edit: About that last part… I think there’s a few basic, agile tools you can utilize whatever you’re doing: visualize how you work; get faster feedback; limit the amount of work in progress.

software projects: have your cake and eat it?

would you like to have your cake and eat it, too?

in my opinion you actually can’t; you’re not able to make absolutely sure that a project is on budget (resources), on time (delivery date), and have all the planned features with high quality, all at the same time.  there’s always a risk, and you can only control any 2 out of the 3 factors at the most. If you try to control all 3 factors at once you are most likely sacrificing the quality of the features, and thus you’re not in control over the features anyway.

Scott W. Ambler makes a few interesting points in this article about software development projects – i’ve selected the quotes that’s most interesting (to me) below.

  • “the only true measure of progress on a software development project is the delivery of working software. “
  • “Agile teams choose to produce potentially-shippable software at the end of each iteration, providing concrete and visible feedback to their stakeholders as to their actual progress. “
  • “… the majority of stakeholders prefer this sort of tangible evidence of progress instead of intangible numbers. “
  • “… the majority of our stakeholders aren’t really interested in whether we’re on schedule or on budget.”

“…. In August 2007, Dr. Dobb’s ran a survey exploring how people define IT project success, and we found that 80 percent of people preferred to focus on producing a good return on investment (ROI) than being under budget, and that 62 percent wanted teams to ship their systems when they’re ready to be shipped rather than forcing adherence to a schedule. ”

  • “… the priorities are to spend the money wisely and ship quality systems. “
  • “… shipping high quality software is more important than being on time and on budget”
  • “… instead of measuring progress against your plan, … you should instead be focusing on ensuring ROI and product quality. “

“The agile practices of implementing requirements in priority order and allowing requirements to evolve throughout the lifecycle ensure greater ROI, and agile practices such as test-driven development (TDD) and refactoring promote greater quality.”