Lessons in Agile Management: On the Road to Kanban – A Book Review
Lessons in Agile Management: On the Road to Kanban is a collection of blog posts by David J. Anderson compiled into a book. Insights about software development, Lean and Agile principles, influence of thought leaders such as Deming, Drucker and Goldratt, as well as his own observation and experience that spanned 13 years are organized in 16 chapters to show the story of a journey. The book also touches on other related topics such as leadership, management, human resources, communities and more.
The paperback book was published in August 2012 by Blue Hole Press. It has 432 pages and about 0.9 inch thick. The cover shows a big, partially cut, semi-opaque white circle with the title in the center on a background of colored cube illustrations. The name of the author appears in the upper part of the cover. ISBN-10: 0985305126; ISBN-13: 978-0985305223
On the Road to Kanban is for team leaders and managers interested about the thinking and principles that brought about Kanban as a method as well as a community and movement. Those who followed the author’s blogs on the previous agilemanagement.net (now djaa.com) will find this book familiar but not altogether the same, as it has been retouched to follow a theme. It will be valuable to those who are struggling to lead teams in technology companies under the pressure of becoming Agile, and how Kanban can ease that transition.
What Customers Say
Ellen Gottesdiener found the author’s insights as fascinating and powerful especially for the Kanban, Lean and Agile community. She described it as holding many memorable gems that include self-reflections, retrospective comments, credit to his influences, and other musings about risk, leadership and flow.
Craeg Strong stated that the experiences and insights found in On the Road to Kanban gives practitioners an invaluable aid to help them determine if Kanban is a good fit for their particular situation.
Content, Approach, Style
On the Road to Kanban is about 110,000 words in length. It is divided in 16 chapters that discuss a particular theme in each chapter, and it begins with a contemporary commentary to put the articles in context and relate the lessons to Agile, Lean and Kanban. For example, Chapter 1 is about Leadership, and it has about 11 or so articles. One article is titled New Rules for Old Geeks and is about how great software developers, although still capable, have aged and now have different priorities like family and health. The article challenges managers and leaders to put in place lean processes that would result in productivity but also a healthy work-life balance.
Some chapters are about influences on the author. Chapter 3 is titled What Would Drucker Do, referring to Peter Drucker who invented the concept of management by objectives. Chapter 4 is titled Inspired by Deming, referring to W. Edwards Deming, an American statistician who taught design improvement in Japan and regarded to have made great impact in Japanese manufacturing.
Although the articles have been written independently way back then, the book has been organized so that a common theme emerges. The commentaries also help put in context the articles to the theme and lessons. The language used is easy to understand, and if some special terms are introduced, an explanation, comparison, or analogy is presented to make it clear.
Why Buy the Book
On the Road to Kanban is an honest documentary of sorts that tackled issues and observations that happened in the past as it happened, and how it is still relevant (or not) now. Kanban introduces change, and it is apparent in this author’s journey. Perhaps it will inspire some as well with the reader.
Books that Complement
Scott Berkun’s Making Things Happen is another insightful book in essay format about project planning, communications, leadership and other PM concepts.
Bridge to Agility by Michele Sliger is also a book that helps team leaders transition to Agile principles and practices.
David J. Anderson is a veteran manager, leader, and consultant with 30 years experience in the high technology industry. He has led teams in firms such as Microsoft, Motorola and Sprint transition to Agile and Lean practices. From his long experience that started in the 1980’s, he has developed the Kanban Method by integrating Lean principles with Agile practices. He is the CEO of David J. Anderson & Associates, a management solutions company he founded in 2008 that helps improve performance, communication, and collaboration in organizations. He also started Lean Kanban, Inc., which owns LeanKanban University, a professional association dedicated to grow and protect Kanban practices. David also has authored other books on the subject of Kanban and Agile.