Lean from the Trenches – A Kanban Book Review
Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban is a book about a real public service project that was experiencing problems and how a team solved it. It is a story of how a 60-person project team developed a complex software system for the Swedish Police using Lean and Kanban practices. It is a two-part book that shared an actual story in the first part and then lessons about Agile and Lean principles in the second part as they were applied during the project.
The paperback edition was published on December 21, 2011 by Pragmatic Bookshelf. It is 176 pages and about one-half inch thick. With a white background, the title is displayed at the center of the book besides what seems to be a photo of a traffic light post showing three green lights in the shape of arrows pointing up. The author’s name is displayed at the lower part. ISBN-10: 1934356859; ISBN-13: 978-1934356852
As a case study about software development and implementation, this book is primarily for team leaders and project managers. It is also for Agile and Lean coaches as well as Lean and Kanban practitioners. Those interested with implementing large-scale projects using these principles and methods can also gain some perspective and input, regardless whether the project is in software or in other industries. However, the author warns that it is not a how-to manual that can be copied in every situation, since it was the story of a particular team with a particular client working in a particular culture.
What Customers Say
Yves Hanoulle compared Henrik’s other books with Lean from the Trenches and described it as a step further. What he liked about it is how it shared about tools that are available to people, how these were put into good use and showed that it is possible to run a big project in a Lean way.
Arun Vetrivel described it as very helpful for beginners and very practical as a Kanban guide, where it addressed day-to-day issues.
Richy Li, who works in the software industry but not as an engineer, described Lean from the Trenches as helpful in explaining about Lean and Kanban concisely. It also helped to communicate better with engineers.
Content, Approach, Style
The book is divided in two parts. The first part is the actual case study titled How We Work. It is divided into 16 small chapters. For example, Chapter 1 is titled About the Project, and it describes the PUST, a new digital investigation system for the Swedish national police authority. Chapter 1.1 describes the project timeline, which started in 2009, the first production release one year later, followed by bi-monthly releases, and the targeted nationwide availability by 2011.
Chapter 2 is about structuring the teams; Chapter 3 is about the daily meetings, and so on and so forth up to Chapter 16. The second part is titled A Closer Look at the Techniques, which runs from Chapter 17 to 21. These are about Agile and Lean principles, reducing the test automation backlog, and more explanations of the practices mentioned in the first part.
The approach is quite factual, which includes photos and other project images. The language used will pose no problem to most readers, even those new to Agile and Lean. It is about software development, so some terms common to the subject is present, but the ideas are clearly presented and will not cause any confusion.
Why Buy the Book
Lean from the Trenches is a documentation of how Lean principles and its tools like Kanban were actually used and proven to be applicable and successful in real-world large-scale projects. Although this is just one particular case, those who believe in the principles and practices will surely learn something valuable and gain more confidence for other similar implementations.
Books that Complement
Brilliant Project Management is another book written based on the experiences of project managers Stephen Barker and Rob Cole.
John Goodpasture’s Project Management the Agile Way is a hardcover reference that shows how to scale Agile methodologies for enterprise projects.
Henrik Kniberg studied computer science at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. He co-founded several software development companies such as Netbreeze, Goyada and Epicent. He has been leading teams, working as a consultant or being the Chief Technology Officer for more than 15 years. In 2005, he started Crisp, a Stockholm-based Agile/Lean coaching and consulting company. He was in the Board of Directors of the Agile Alliance for two years up to 2011. He is currently working also at Spotify as an Agile/Lean coach to help managers and teams understand and apply the mindset and practices. He is fascinated about software development and has written several books about specific implementations based on Scrum, XP and Kanban.