A Tale of Two Communities

April 30, 2009 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I've been active in many different software development communities and user groups over the last 10 years.  Some include eXtreme Programming, Design Patterns, Lean, Lean-Agile, Scrum Development and any number of local user groups.  I most recently have begun to be active in the Kanban Software Development user group.  I have been a member of it for quite some time and know many of the participants, but hadn't been what I would call actively engaged until recently.

What has really struck me about this community is that there is in depth, open, engaging conversations about things like Little's Law, work in process, theory of constraints, managing workflow, improving cycle time, value-stream mapping and many many more. 

The amazing thing to me is that I would guess most of the people in the Agile community have little familiarity with most of these terms.  With the exception of TOC, they are all Lean concepts. While this community is interested in figuring things out and learning, they are concerned about solving problems more than where the ideas come from.  It's really refreshing to see a community basing it's work on what others have done and not have to relearn it all.  

I contrast this with the Scrum Development group which, many of you know, I have gotten thrown off of twice for suggesting (OK, stating outright) that you needed Lean concepts to make Scrum successful at the enterprise level. A comment like "In the Scrum community, we stick with the basic Scrum principles" or veiled allegations of profiteering instead of discussing the issues just wouldn't be tolerated (let alone come from the leader of the community).

I state this knowing that many in the Scrum community will just say - "oh, there's Alan dissing us again."  But I am not.  I am asking for open communication.  Ironically, as I engage more and more about the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches I am beginning to realize how little I know and how much more needs to be learned. This means for any approach to work - all involved with it must learn and this requires an open conversation.

Am I alone here?  Doesn't it strike one odd that one group takes advantage of 50-60 years of knowledge (kanbandev) while another group takes pride in that they are doing "inspect and adapt" and you don't need anything else? 

Anyway, kudos to the Kanban Software Development group and I strongly suggest people interested in quality Agile methods check it out. People taking advantage of what's been learned in other industries.  Taking advantage of knowledge learned before there were modern computers.  Wow, what a concept.  Go beyond Plan-Do-Check-Act (ironically, one of the pillars of Lean as well).

Alan Shalloway
CEO, Net Objectives
Achieving Enterprise and Team Agility

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.


On behalf of Jack Vinson:Alan-  Found your post via Google Alerts on Theory of Constraints.  I agree that it is very easy for a community to become convinced that it is right and people bringing in outside ideas are dangerous.  I see this in my home academic discipline (chemical engineering), and I've seen it to some extent in Theory of Constraints.  I suppose it all depends on where you sit."Regards,Jack VinsonKnowledge Jolt with Jack: http://blog.jackvinson.com/ Tweeting at http://twitter.com/jackvinson

This snipping occurs not just within the software development community. I remember listening to architects have OODA arguments about the best way to identify and define classes in the late 80's. I have training in Lean from LEI and took my CSM from Jeff Sutherland. I have been doing TOC-Critical Chain for a decade also am a PMP and an Certified OPM3 Consultant. Each of these communities think they have "the" answer and scoff at the other communities/organizations. I find value from each of these experiences. I am in Miami at the Lean & Kanban Conference and it is very exciting to see such a talented group striving to find what is best across each area instead of bunkering down to defend their approach. The next great breakthroughs for technology driven organizational success are going to come out of collaborations like this.


Thanks for your comment (and coming by to say hi).  It definitely is human to defend one's beliefs.  The interesting thing is that I am not trying to attack anyone. I have always been trying to see what the limits are of things.  Everything has limits (even Lean, which people know I am a big proponent of). Finding the limits of something doesn't make it wrong. 

For example, Newtonian physics is pretty good - but it has limits.  Good to know what they are. 

Alan Shalloway, CEO Net Objectives

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