Sunday, 24 January 2010

What's the Difference Between Lean and Kanban?

Maybe I just need to read more about the original concepts for Lean software development, but the more I see written about Kanban, the more I think it's just re-branded Lean. Before you jump off the deep end with me, my idea of Lean is more like that which you'll find in the Toyota Way or Deming.

Looking through the entries in a recent definition of Kanban blog post, all of the things mentioned are core Toyota Way values:
  • Systems Thinking
  • Limit Work in Progress
  • Pull System
  • Mapped Value Stream
  • Cadence and Flow
  • Visual Signals
Now, I'd happily use any of these points in a description of what I consider to be Lean, but I'd always want to include the pre-requisite of:
Continuous reflection and improvement based on a culture of learning and standardised working practices.
Maybe this can be wrapped up in the phrase "Systems Thinking" and I should remember the 130 character limit on people's descriptions when considering what they left out: They will naturally be a top two or top three and a poor reflection of each person's complete set of beliefs about Kanban I'd clearly fail to get my ideas into a single short sentence, it's taking me a full blog post!

Perhaps as a community we need clearly defined methodology brands, which is why we've always had these strong, product-like names (such as DSDM, XP, RAD, Evo, Agile and now Kanban). (Branding is a definite positive if you're trying to sell books or a consulting service). I've no objection, but I prefer to avoid describing my beliefs using these terms, as it suggests that I'm all for one set of ideas and dead against the rest. If pushed, I'd maybe say that I'm a "Lean Pragmatist", but would more likely describe myself plainly as an Engineer with a desire to get it right.

1 comment:

  1. I guess this is what happens when people take one specific tool or method and sell it without the larger context. Sure, a doing a project around a kanban board will work for some, but at least as the projects and organizations get bigger, just having a tool, a board, will probably not alleviate the real problem: a lack of culture.

    I consider kanban a tool, at best a specific method, to do things. Without the other elements in the lean philosophy, the practitioner will/can loose out big time.