Zombie Kanban, or: Don’t forget the soul!

May 19, 2010 at 9:28 am 7 comments


Please get me right. This is not a rage against Kanban. It is for fun and I think there is some truth in it.

from danhollisterduck (flickr)

Kanban installs a continuous improvement process. It does not predefine the direction of the improvement, since it does not define a value system. Therefore Kanban itself is not agile and it is not anti-agile. It just doesn’t care.

To define a proper value system is up to the companies using Kanban. Do they value Scrum-like teamwork over silos or vice versa? Do they value face-to-face communication over written documents or vice versa? And so on …

I suspect the definition of an underlying value system is often not done. And then you get Zombie Kanban, something without a soul. Zombies have an impetus to eat others brains but what is their real (long term) goal? Zombie Kanban has the impetus to shorten cycle times but without having a purpose. (Of course it’s better to shorten cycle times than eating other peoples brains. But that is simply not enough🙂 )

Just installing an improvement process is not sufficient. You have to define a value system or purpose. (See also tip #2 of this blog post from LSS Academy).

Otherwise you can order some of these for your company:

from Shiny Things (flickr)

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JAX-Vortrag über Scrum-But(t) online Sprints, Missionen und Motivation

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ChrisInCambo  |  May 19, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Nice post, couldn’t agree more.

  • 2. Marko Schulz  |  May 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    This is coherent with viewing Kanban as a mere tool, just like a revision control system.

    IMHO all tools also go along with certain values (e.g. by enabling some actions and hindering others) but you are right that tools don’t provide or require a whole value system unlike methodologies.

  • 3. stefanroock  |  May 19, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Marko,
    the danger to use Kanban as a method and not a tool is bigger than with a CVS. And discussions like “my Kanban is better than your Scrum” provoke using Kanban as a method.

  • 4. Marko Schulz  |  May 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Yeah, “some major Kanban advocates” actually foster that problem by lining up Kanban against Scrum:-/

  • 5. Arne  |  May 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I gues “CannibalBan” or “Kanbannibal” would be a good term:-)

  • 6. Arne  |  May 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Why do you think Kanban does not provide any values? In my opinion there´re several of them:
    1) We deliver features with as much customer value as posiible – as fast as possible.
    2) We strive after improvement every day.
    3) We take sustainable pace seriously.
    4) We respect the way people are doing their work right now.

  • 7. stefanroock  |  May 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Arne,
    yes these are values. Are they defined explicitly or did you derive them?

    It would be interesiting to see a formulation as value pairs like in the Agile Manifesto: x over y. Is there such a thing?

    Still I think you have to add values to clarifiy the value of teamwork, specialization, command/control, selt organization.

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