Interview: Alan Shalloway on Lean Agile Software Development, Part Two

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Interview: Alan Shalloway on Lean Agile Software Development, Part Two

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Today I'm privileged to share with you the remainder of an interview that I conducted with Alan Shalloway (you can read part one here). I first encountered Alan while searching for podcasts on agility. I luckily stumbled upon "Lean Agile Straight Talk," on which he regularly appears with his colleague, Jim Trott.

Matt: What is Scrumban and how does it relate to both Kanban and Scrum?

Alan: Scrumban was created by Corey Ladas. It was originally designed as a way to take teams that were struggling with Scrum and help them to follow the product development flow we call Kanban. As you can see, I am using Kanban two different ways here – it is unfortunate, but this is what has happened in the community.  Kanban is both a change management system and, if based on lean-product development flow, a method that uses cadence but not iterations. Scrumban is essentially Kanban layered on top of Scrum. That is, you use iterations and other Scrum practices, but you also manage your WIP and provide visibility. It has a Kanban mindset, not a Scrum mindset (again, see my aforementioned blog for more on this if you are interested).

In reality we have the following things:

  1. Scrum - An iterative process that handles your change management by providing you prescriptive practices and organizational structure that you must follow to be effective.
  2. Kanban as Change Management - A method of taking any process and improving it by managing work in progress and providing visibility.  It is based on Lean-Thinking and product development flow.
  3. Kanban as a Method – Use the principles of lean product development flow to guide your work across one or more teams.

 Kanban combined with Scrum is called Scrumban.  Kanban combined with "Kanban as a Method" is also called Kanban. Unfortunately, this is confusing.

Matt: Would you ever recommend Scrumban over either alternative approach? Why?

I rarely recommend one process over another.  Rather, I like to discuss the principles and mindsets of the methods and let my clients pick the one they feel most comfortable with. I think consultants that tell teams which method to use are being somewhat arrogant; the teams they are talking to certainly know more about their work than the consultant does. What I’ve been saying for years is that Scrum is insufficient to handle many of the challenges that teams and organizations face, and  that Kanban and Lean-Thinking provide answers and insights to these challenges. One most often needs to know Lean-Thinking if they are trying to manifest agility beyond the team level.

That said, I do believe that the Scrumban mindset (incorporating Lean) is almost always better (again, except for when working with individual, isolated teams) than the Scrum mindset. Apparently so do the people I end up working with. My experience is that about 60% of the teams I’ve worked with recently end up using Kanban as a method, 30% use Scrumban and about 10% continue with Scrum. But I rarely (ever?) suggest they use one over the other. It’s up to the team to define the process they will use.

Matt: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Alan: Yes. If you are a practitioner and looking to get help, I would suggest you look at the experience of the consultants you are engaging with. Many people have only had success with one method (typically Scrum or XP) and therefore strongly endorse that one.  Many people forget that Net Objectives was, at one time, one of the largest Scrum training companies around. We have, and continue to have, success with Scrum. We’ve just seen how to have more success with other methods on their own or extending Scrum.  If you are a consultant (or a practitioner for that matter) I strongly suggest going to a Lean Conference. There are several taking place around the world now. I think you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn there. See www.leanssc.org for information on these.

How can we learn more about what you and NetObjectives are doing?

Alan: Go to www.netobjectives.com. In particular, check out our resources section. We have literally days of webinars and more to interest you if you register there. I hope you also find my blogs of value. We also offer a three day course on Kanban, Scrumban and Scrum called the Lean-Agile Project Manager (available now in many cities in the US and Canada). Please contact me directly if you have a particular challenge or issue you’d like help with.

Matt: Thanks Alan. I'm sure this dialogue has been incredibly useful to our readers.

That concludes the interview. For those of you looking for the next installment of "The Agile Guerilla" series, it will return next week.


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