Kanban yourself to agile?


Who here has led a transformation using primarily Kanban, not Scrum? What was your experience?


I spent three years at a digital agency. They hired me to create some process around their projects because things were out of control. I mostly stumbled into kanban via Trello, which is a fantastic simple tool. From there I read David Anderson’s Kanban book, then Phoenix Project, then The Goal.

Using the ideas learned in those books (and learning from online groups similar to this one) I managed to experiment with the ideas in the context of the agency.

By the time I left, I didn’t have much to do as ‘the system’ kind of ran itself. The transformation was fantastic. We limited work in progress. We starting being honest with customers (“I can’t work on your project until next month. But when we start, you will have 100% focus and we need you to be fully ready to participate”).

It truly was transformational. And the employees truly appreciated it.


Thanks Don for the story! It seems that everybody jumps headfirst into the Scrum/SAFe playpen, it’s awesome to hear you got great results concentrating on what really amounts to lean basics. Here’s to hoping more enterprises take note and follow the same path.


First, SAFe is not an agile approach. It’s an excellent RUP. (Yeah, I will tell you exactly how I think and feel :slight_smile: And, if you’re new to an agile approach, why would you want to “scale” it past one team before you know how it might work for you? Where’s the experimentation there?

Second, Scrum is useful if:

  • You want to blow up the culture from Day 1
  • You want to make people change their jobs and roles from Day 1
  • You need and want wholesale change.
  • And, you can create cross-functional collocated teams that work on only one product at a time and have limited interruptions from support.

Otherwise, Scrum is not that useful. However, a kanban approach is.

When I teach about agile approaches, I explain the difference between a timebox and a cadence. (https://www.jrothman.com/mpd/agile/2017/04/thinking-about-cadence-vs-iterations/)

While I’m not always enamored of The Kanban Method, I prefer to start where people are. I happen to like using kanban for that.
My $.02.