I’m very excited to present to you this interview with David J. Anderson. He’s a Management author, consultant & trainer and Pioneer of the use of Kanban Systems in creative & knowledge worker industries (versus Personal Kanban and Family Kanban). I’m grateful he took the time out of his very busy schedule to spend with us and in answering our questions.
In this interview (view other leadership and thought leader interviews), you’ll learn:
- The long road of discovery, self-reflection, and learning that led up to the development of Kanban for use in creative and knowledge work.
- What influenced David’s thinking in his development of the virtual Kanban system for creative and knowledge work.
- A few case studies of where Kanban has been implemented, and the broad support and acceptance by companies of all types.
- Despite broad support, there remains some resistance still – what are the common objections and why?
Enjoy the article and read more about David and his work after the interview.
Hi David. Can you tell my audience a little about yourself and your work?
I grew up in Scotland. My background is in software. I started as a games developer in the early 1980s. I went to university later and studied electronics, mostly control systems engineering and almost took a PhD in wind turbine design but the funding for the research fell through and instead I took a job as the development manager at a 5 year old startup company. I did startups for most of my 20s then moved in big corporations arriving in the United States in 1999 where I worked for Sprint PCS and later Motorola’s PCS division as department manager/director. My last real job was Senior Director of Software Engineering at Corbis, a company privately owned by Bill Gates.
These days I am Chairman of Lean Kanban Inc., a firm that licenses my intellectual property and training materials to certified trainers around the world, and organizes a series of conferences globally. Some years there can be as many as 14 of these happening around the world. This year we have 9 or 10 on 3 continents.
I’m best known these days for my work introducing virtual kanban systems into software development and for its spread into general knowledge work and creative industries. It also spawned the Personal Kanban movement as one of my business partners at the time, Jim Benson, documented how to apply the ideas to our personal lives and personal productivity. In the past I’ve been known as a contributor to the Agile Software Development movement and I’d also published work in the fields of Object-Oriented Analysis & Design and User Interface Design.
I’ve written 3 books, Agile Management for Software Engineering (2003), Kanban – Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business (2010), and Lessons in Agile Management (2012). I have a few unfinished manuscripts in development and expect to have a new book published next year.
You are credited with applying the use of Kanban to creative and knowledge work. Can you take us back in history and share the context that led up to the development of the Kanban method and what influenced its development?
My first book was inspired by a synthesis of Feature-Driven Development (one of the methods that was recognized at the foundation of the Agile Software Development movement), Donald Reinertsen’s work in New Product Development and specifically his ideas on flow of information discovery, and Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (and specifically his Drum-Buffer-Rope solution for bottlenecks in flow). The book demonstrated how to visualize flow of software development in the Feature-Development process using cumulative flow diagrams (from Reinertsen) and then recognize bottlenecks (from Goldratt) and provided guidance on how to improve based on this information.
When Reinertsen saw my work, he casually remarked that I had all the building blocks in place to implement a kanban system for software development and he argued strongly that this would produce more reliable results the Drum-Buffer-Rope approach because chance cause variability in knowledge work processes has a bigger influence on flow than the presence of