Lumpy Kanban

The coalescing of bits and bobs in this posting to the kanbandev Y! group have brought me to a realisation of why Kanban-for-software seems to make me cringe so much. I thought that I'd replied in the group, but apparently not, so I'll do it here. Reply now here

Versus what I'm used to seeing (expect to see, want to see) in an Agile development organisation the Kanban that I've seen explained in numerous posts, conference sessions and so forth has far too large a batch size. There's far too much work in progress. The flow of value is far too uneven. I mean, really, the Kanbanista's want us to organise our work around something as big and lumpy and lengthy as an entire feature!?


Paul said...

Hi Keith,

I find this trend worrysome too. My guess is that it prehaps has more to do with the desire to sell someting new, then to address real problems in the field, but I guess thats just my synical british nature...

About the lumps. Taiichi Ohno spent a decade perfecting Kanban along with something called Production Leveling. Production leveling is a way of smoothing the flow and getting rid of the lump. Ohno says that it is a key ingredient in making Kanban work well.

Funny that I haven't heard anyone in the Lean camp talk about Production Levelling.... Perhaps they missed that bit :)

Anonymous said...


I don't think that the Lean folks have missed production leveling. It has been stated that in order to be most effective, the features need to be similarly sized. I believe that David Anderson uses a "class of service" that is influenced by the size of the item.


Paul said...

Hi Brandon,

I heard this, and talk about a MMF. But was does that mean in practice? In a planned, predictable manufacturing process there is a lot that can be done to "level" the arrival of work, but as Keith says, in a creative process like new product development, the arrival of new feature requests is naturally lumpy.

I can see how it would work for say bug fixes and maintenance, but even here it would be difficult to avoid lumps.


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