Agile Talks: Intro to Kanban, Part I

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Kanban is not strictly an Agile method as it can be used to model any flow-based process. However it is quite applicable for Agile situations, and is much more amenable to environments that are not concerned with software development. 18F’s Operations team used Kanban very successfully in 2016 to bring order to a chaotic process.


Kanban - a process management and diagnostic tool that can be used with both Agile and non-Agile environments. A Kanban board can be a helpful tool for introducing a few Agile behaviors to a team less familiar with the methodology.


This is the first of a two-part training series on using Kanban with Agile.


More talks in this series:

  • Intro to Kanban, Part II - Thursday, November 14, 2:30 - 3:30 pm, ET


Alan + Alan

Alan Atlas is currently the Agile Coach for login.gov, and has been with 18F for nearly four years. During that time, he has primarily delivered various kinds of Agile traning, coaching, and management consulting. He began his Agile career as Scrum Master for the team at Amazon.com that build Amazon S3. Before coming to 18F, he spent over ten years consulting and coaching privately for Agile teams at various private sector companies.

Alan Brouilette - is the Chief of Staff for 18F. He came here in 2015 to be an Agile coach and found himself learning Operations by doing, developing process for Staffing, Agreements, Travel, and other bits and pieces of 18F. He also does his part carrying TTS' emotional labor, meeting facilitation, and firefighting. Prior to 18F he worked in the financial industry, news and sports radio, and taught processes and collaboration.


What is Agile?

If you take nothing else from all these words take this - Agile is not a checklist, or a methodology, or a series of rituals. Agile is a way of thinking and a way of attacking problems. Embrace mistakes, learn, and keep trying. Mess up, and learn again and again and again. Cut your losses. Fail forward fast. It's okay. You're always improving.

As we put it in the 18F Guide to Agile -There are three basic approaches to softward development: Waterfall, Agile, and Chaos:

Chaos is when you don’t really have a methodology, and you don’t really learn anything, but everybody’s super busy all the time. Chaos is often characterized (or justified, if you want to be more critical) as “firefighting,” and it is suggested that there is no time to plan or learn because there is just so much to do.

Waterfall is when you lay out The Plan in full before you start: every detail, every feature, every meeting, every benchmark, and then you’re wrong on most of them but forge ahead anyway, secure in the knowledge that following The Plan gives air cover in the likely event that the thing you’re building doesn’t work the way you expected it to when you made The Plan.

Agile is different. In Agile, you build big things a baby step at a time. You are motivated and engaged because you are empowered to make your own decisions about how you accomplish your work. Agile has an end result in mind, and maybe a timeframe, but it only gets into the details as needed, which allows for change in response to new information.


Related Links:


Want to talk to others in government who are using Agile?


Learn more about how 18F can support your team at https://18f.gsa.gov



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