In May 2003, Mary and Tom Poppendieck came out with Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit. The book introduced principles that have already revolutionized the manufacturing industry. By adopting seven Lean principles, people developing software were shown how to create a more efficient process that is optimized for their work environment. These principles help people to eliminate waste, amplify learning, and deliver as fast as possible, among others. Lean practices promote a variety of tools, and one popular tool is Kanban.
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a Japanese term that can mean visual board. When applied in the context of Lean practices, Kanban is a visual tool for managing the flow of something or anything, like information or work items. It is flexible enough to be introduced in an existing process, whatever that process may be and without having the need to replace the process, but is very compatible with Agile methods. Kanban, therefore, is not a new way of software development or project management, nor is it exclusive to these areas. In fact, it is being used in many industries such as manufacturing, R&D, supply chain, logistics management, and healthcare, to name a few. Kanban, however, helps in the management of projects by visualizing workflow, limiting work in process, and creating and improving the flow.
The Top 5
Books on Agile and Lean usually mention Kanban practices and techniques. In truth, the number of books published specifically about Kanban is very few and usually written by the same subject matter experts. In time, the number may increase, as it gains more popularity. This limited selection is about Kanban as it applies to project management and technology projects, and not in other areas.
Summary: David J. Anderson is a thought leader, trainer and consultant that helps businesses improve their performance and manage their technology development. The book was published in April 2010 and currently ranks #58 in Amazon’s Best Sellers in Project Management category. The book discusses what Kanban is, how it can help, how it should be implemented, and what to do with the improvements gained.
Summary: Henrik Kniberg, like David Anderson, is one of the few Kanban experts who have published books about it. Henrik is a consultant based in Stockholm, Sweden who helps IT companies apply Agile and Lean principles. The paperback book was published in December 2011 and priced at $23.31. The book is about actual practice with real-case situations and practical instructions.
Summary: Corey Ladas is a former Software Development Manager at Microsoft, a consultant, and presently a founding partner of Modus Cooperandi. The 180-page paperback book was published in January 2009. The book contains a series of essays on how Kanban can extend the benefits of Scrum methodology by providing a mechanism to identify improvement opportunities, metrics and daily management techniques.
Summary: Another book by Henrik Kniberg that was published in March 2010 under lulu.com. The book consists of two parts; the first part discusses the similarities and differences of the two Agile methods, while the second part is a case study that showed how an organization using Scrum implemented Kanban. The book is priced at $19.69 and contains 120 pages.
Summary: Another book by David J. Anderson that was published in August 2012. The book is 432 pages and is the most expensive in this list at $42.94. This is a collection of over 150 articles based on the author’s 12 years of valuable experience and insight managing and coaching teams at technology companies. The articles have been reworked to provide a coherent story grouped in 16 chapters. It currently ranks #59 in Amazon’s Best Sellers in the Agile-Project Management category.
As mentioned, this is a limited list of five Kanban books from just three authors. Incidentally, Pawel Brodzinski, a Kanban proponent, described book# 1 and #4 as canonical books about Kanban, and also described book #2 as a great practical guide to Kanban implementation. We hope that, in time, there will be more books and choices for project managers and other professionals interested in this great tool.