Thursday, 21 January 2010

Lean reading - a my current book list of lean

My current reading list is loaded with some highly recommended books on Lean System thinking and the theory of constraints.  There are a lot of cross-concepts between these two areas and its been good to compare the ideas together.

Theory of Constraint books:
Theory of Constraints - Eliyahu M. Goldratt
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement - Eliyahu M. Goldratt
It's Not Luck - Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Lean system thinking books:
Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation - James P. Womack - I started with the audio book, but have got the paper copy for reference as there was a lot of good stuff to process.
The Machine That Changed the World - James P. Womack

After I have finished the above it will be on to the poppendieck books by that time it will hopefully be time for the new book by David J. Anderson on lean and kanban that is rumoured to be in the works.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Personal Kanban for Just-in-time skills development

It is not uncommon in IT projects that you are required to learn something on the fly or you see an opportunity to introduce a new technique or tool that would bring great benefits to a project.

How do you manage the learning curve required for something new without major impact to the project?

After reading comments from my previous personal Kanban post by Jim Benson and Bruce, I thought I would expand on the Just-in-time aspect of Kanban.

I currently use my personal Kanban (LeanKitKanban) to drop small size cards into my backlog that are designed to tell me what I need to learn about a subject or tool quickly.  The cards have a set goal that should be manageable in a short time period.  Each card would have the relevant resources links to help me achieve that goal.

When I get a spare hour I can select one of these and have a focused, time-boxed cards and get up to speed quickly.  If I have met the goal and feel confident that what I have learnt was beneficial (either personally or for current work) then I mark that card as a success.  If I don't meet the goal, then I will mark the card as incomplete and review it in a mini retrospective.  The goal of the retrospective is to help me write better cards quickly, as well as check that the topics I am learning are coheirent.

An example would be good right now:

I was at the Agile Testing user group in December and there was some discussion on continuous integration.  I realised that this area has really flourished since I last set up Cruise Control, so I created a group of cards on my Kanban to look at what's new in continuous integration and to reaffirm that I was up to date with the latest practices.  In that same week as the meeting I had manage to review the theory (Google, Wikipedia) and learnt a new tool called Hudson (great tool, I recommend it, neatly integrated with Netbeans).  All this was pretty easy to fit into my busy schedule as I could easily visualise all my work on the Kanban and see what was important that week and what could wait.

I still have several continuous related cards in the backlog, but for now I have refreshed enough theory to work with Hudson effectively in my project work.  If I need to learn Team City or some other CI tool, then I have a model to quickly tackle that learning.

This approach works for me at present as I break down the task on the card to something managable.  I am curious to find out how well I can break a large subject area down with this process, for example learning the whole of Spring 3.

For now I will be using this JIT Kanban learning to review and extend my Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) skills as I have a BDD immersion workshop in February with Liz Keogh at SkillsMatter and want to make sure I get the most of the workshop.  It should be a great day of learning as Liz has done a great deal of work defining BDD and adding lean system thinking into the topics that will be covered.  There will be some homework to take away from the course, so I'll be using my personal Kanban to organise that work into my busy schedule.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Personal Kanban to manage personal development

Having an inquisitive minds is a great thing but there can be a tenancy to be interested in too many things that you never learn something deeply enough. How do you stop the inquisitive monster in you mind and get on with just one thing?

I have been using a Kanban system to plan my study and added work in process (WIP) limits to manage the flow so my monster is tamed and I focus on one thing.  Any future interests are quickly dropped into my backlog so my monster is satisfied that there is lots more to learn.

I started with a basic design for my Kanban, with the lanes Review, Study and Blogging which nicely followed the plan-do-act design that is often used for visual boards.

After a week of this Kanban design, I felt that something was missing between review and study.  When I completed a study task there was not a clear set of tasks I could choose from which I new I wanted to study.  I would end up looking at review tasks that I had not finished (or started) meaning more time planning rather than studying.  As duplicating planning of study tasks is wasteful, I modified the board design to include a Ready to Study lane so I could quickly choose the next topic.

I renamed Study to Deep in Study to indicate that this was generally a bigger process and I would need to set aside more time.  I reinforced the idea that deep in study was a bigger task by limiting the WIP to 2 tasks (I am allowing 2 tasks as I am still detoxing from multi-tasking for far too long).

Once I had completed a study task, the plan was to blog about that topic to help retain the knowledge I had gained.  I found it useful to add yet another lane called Evaluating to help me review what I had learnt and had a better idea of what to blog about.

Using a Kanban approach has also helped me develop skills in a just-in-time approach.  By adding small tasks to my backlog to help me evaluate new areas of study or tools, I have a pool quick work that I can fit in when I need a break from deeper study.  Carrying out a brief review of something new allows me to work out what I need to learn, how much effort it would be to learn and most importantly if it is really worth learning yet.  From this quick analysis I can create a number of study and exercise tasks in my Kanban backlog that would help me learn efficiently, indicating effort and priority of each task.