Above all, Agile is about focusing on the customer in the most streamlined way possible. Fundamental goals are established at the outset of a project but can be adjusted incrementally as problems or concerns reveal themselves through the real work of a dedicated team. Essential to this model is the Kanban developmental framework, formulated by David J. Anderson as “an approach for incremental, evolutionary process and systems change for organisations”. Kanban seeks to banish organisational chaos by insisting that priorities be front and centre throughout the entire workflow process.
Everyone who has ever started a business, or been involved in a project, knows how easy it is to get bogged down in where to begin. But really, the questions should always be, “Where do we want to go, and what do we want to achieve?” Kanban understands this crucial difference. It streamlines the workflow by focusing on the “flow of value”, as Julia Webster describes it. Instead of measuring the nuts and bolts of workflow, Kanban demands that attention is paid to why each component exists and how it contributes to the final result. Wester describes this as resetting the “brain to value finishing over starting”.
A core property of Kanban is visualising not only workflow but also incoming work requests, thus optimising the workflow system in a significant way. Kanban recognises that the key to success is limiting work in progress (WIP); new work is only drawn into the workflow when there is available capacity. By managing workflow so minutely, one will know when to alter a process to achieve positive change. Understanding is the key. Ideally, the entire workflow process should be a continuous search for improvement without hiccups.
One of the great benefits of Kanban is that it can be imposed on existing processes. That means that the learning curve does not have to be daunting. Instead of calling for sweeping changes that might entail throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Kanban properties can respect existing processes, as well as established roles and responsibilities. That means anyone can begin implementing Kanban today without restructuring an existing organisation. Regular feedback from the entire team, including the customer, as well as attention to metrics, help guarantee success.
Also crucial to Agile’s success is Extreme Programming (XP), another developmental concept that, like Kanban, focuses on the whole-team approach. In this case, the emphasis is on practices that eliminate distracting clutter. The fundamental values of XP are simplicity, communication, feedback, courage, and respect. Members of the XP team are, ideally, not specialists, but can fulfil many roles—analyst, coach or facilitator, manager, etc. At the core of the XP team, however, is always a business representative called “the customer”. Ideally, this is an end-user, whose job it is to define the tests used to evaluate each release of the product. Because these tests are defined by “the customer”, planning and tracking throughout will be focused on value to the business. All team members learn from one another through this intensive process.
Regular feedback—ideally given every two weeks—is essential to an effective XP team. It ensures that all members can see at a glance where they are and make the adjustments to their practices that will achieve the desired outcome. This iteration planning is at the core of XP’s genius because it allows for quick prediction of what must be accomplished next, and by what date. Production code is written by pairs of colleagues, with everyone working together; this results in a consistent code-style and a common understanding by the whole team. All code has the benefit of the entire team’s attention.
Through simple design, test-driven development, and the resulting design improvement, the XP team keeps the system on track and integrated. The team’s shared overview also ensures that the work continues at a pace that can be sustained indefinitely, delivering a consistently high-quality product to an end-user who is involved throughout the entire process.
This is one in a series of articles exploring the Advanced Certified ScrumMaster learning objectives. If you would like to learn more about how Agile Centre can help you deepen your knowledge of Scrum Mastery then join us for one of our Advanced Certified ScrumMaster courses. For in-house classes or coaching please contact us for details.
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster Learning Objective 1.3: Describe at least two other Lean/Agile development frameworks outside of Scrum and explain their value (e.g., LSD, XP, Kanban).