21 October, 2022
#TOOLS &TECNIQUES #SESSION #ONLINE
Behind Enemy Lines: How We Used the KMM to Help a Safe Shop Get Better, Despite Their Best Efforts to Screw Up the Works.
It seems like a long time ago now since the “never Kanbaners” stormed the citadels here. I thought wistfully back on a time when we actually had honest lunch room arguments about the merits of different approaches to work scheduling. It seems almost naive now that I once thought that a sufficiently cogent argument might be persuasive. But that was before the iron law of SaFE was preached from the bully pulpit.
One could recognize the zealots by their excited muffled whispers of Weighted Shortest Job First and Program Increment Milestones. We listened in awe as management called for a Spike into the Spanning Pallet, waxing eloquent on the critical importance of the Architectural Runway. When it got to the part about leveraging the Solutions Backlog to get everyone on the Agile Train, I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t just a bad dream.
The mere suggestion of Kanban was understood as disloyal subversion. The pressure was on to be seen as a team player. That line from Hamilton came to mind: “Talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for”. The hegemony of SaFE culture was uncontested.
I retreated into my requirements hidey-hole, as Masters fresh out of Scrum school preached the gospel of “sprint commitments” and the reeducation programs that awaited those who couldn’t live up to their Spintly pledges. The hellfire of burn-downs became the daily catechism, and velocity was measured with all of the precision and reason of the alchemists of old in seeking to forge gold from mud and blood.
A way forward came in an unexpected way. A senior manager took me aside for advice on what to do about the train-wreck that our project had become. There was an abundance of low hanging fruit, but thankfully I had the presence of mind to answer simply: “nothing”, recalling “start from where you are”. My manager thought I was being sarcastic, but for once, I was in earnest.
That’s where the fun began. At first, we both had the nearly irresistible impulse to engineer the process to what we imagined it should be, but we recognized that the outcome would be no more than local optimizations. So we soldiered on, limiting our discussions to what was impeding the flow. That led us to what seemed excellent ideas for process improvement.
The KMM became an essential tool for sorting out which changes to push. When we put our ideas of process change in the context of the KMM, it became clear why what seemed like the most obvious changes would likely turn out to be too-much-too-soon. We resisted our instincts and turned to practices suggested by the model that were more appropriate to our reality and more likely to result in a meaningful and persistent improvement.
In this talk, we’ll take you through how we used the KMM behind enemy lines to help a SaFE shop get better, despite their best efforts to screw up the works.
I've put in tens of thousands of hours in varied roles as programmer, team lead, system architect, scrum master, product owner, business analyst and kanban coach, scoring successes at Applied Econometics, MCI Worldcom, American Airlines, Texas Windstorm, Thoughtworks, Pfizer and other organizations.
Sipping from the firehose is pretty much any day of the week in enterprise IT. One area I've been consistently successful with is in helping others understand what to focus on *right now*. Out of the torrent of demand, helping you to understand how to put first things first.
If you think you might find that valuable, please reach out.