Agile Project Management with Kanban

Microsoft Press
Eric Brechner  
Microsoft Press
Total pages
March 2015
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Agile Project Management with Kanban
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Think, “Kanban in a box.” Imagine you ordered Kanban for your team, and got the box delivered to your door. You open the box and right on top is a quick-start guide. Being a novice, you follow the guide, and quickly get up and running. As you become more experienced, the other box contents address common advanced issues you’d face, like right-sizing teams, estimation, hitting deadlines, transitioning from Scrum or Waterfall, deploying components and services, and using Kanban within larger organizations.


  • Real-world experience from a direct practitioner working on Xbox and 
  • A concise, pragmatic, and easy-to-read guide with clear, fresh, and hard-won guidance
  • Using Kanban within larger organizations — how to deal with upper management, planning, and dependencies 

Table of Contents

Introduction   ix
Chapter 1: Getting management consent   1

An open letter to your manager   2
Problem   2
Solution   2
Risks   3
Plan   3
Moving forward   4
Checklist   5
Chapter 2: Kanban quick-start guide   7
Step 1: Capture your team’s high-level routine   7
Step 2: Redecorate your wall   8
Step 3: Set limits on chaos   10
Step 4: Define done   13
Step 5: Run your daily standup   14
Troubleshooting   17
Checklist   24
Chapter 3: Hitting deadlines   25
Populate your backlog   25
Establish your minimum viable product (MVP)   27
Order work, including technical debt   28
Estimate features and tasks   29
Track expected completion date   31
Right-size your team   33
Basic approach   34
Advanced approach   35
Checklist   37
Chapter 4: Adapting from Waterfall   39
Introducing Kanban to a Waterfall team   39
Working in feature teams   42
Completing features before starting new ones   43
Dealing with specs and bugs   44
Specs   44
Bugs   45
Engaging with customers   46
Celebrating performance improvements   48
Rude Q & A   51
Checklist   56
Chapter 5: Evolving from Scrum   57
Introducing Kanban to a Scrum Team   58
Mapping the roles and terms   60
Evolving the events   61
Celebrating performance improvements   62
Rude Q & A   65
Checklist   70
Chapter 6: Deploying components, apps, and services   71
Continuous integration   72
Continuous push   75
Continuous publishing   77
Continuous deployment   79
Checklist   83
Chapter 7: Using Kanban within large organizations   85
Deriving a backlog from big upfront planning   86
Ordering work based on dependencies   87
Fitting into milestones   91
Communicating status up and out   92
Dealing with late or unstable dependencies   94
Late dependencies   94
Unstable dependencies   95
Staying productive during stabilization   98
Checklist   100
Chapter 8: Sustained engineering   101
Define terms, goals, and roles   101
Consistent vocabulary   102
Challenges and goals   102
Define roles and responsibilities   103
Determine SE ownership   104
Lay out support tiers   105
Tier 1   106
Tier 2   106
Tier 3   106
Collaborate for efficiency   106
Triage   106
Quick-solve meeting   108
Implement Kanban SE workflow   108
Escalations   109
Bugs/Other Work   109
Kanban tools   111
Troubleshooting   112
Checklist   115
Chapter 9: Further resources and beyond   117
Expanding Kanban to new areas of business and life   117
Scaling Kanban up, down, and out   118
Personal Kanban   120
Mixing Agile and Lean with Kanban   120
Why Kanban works   123
Single-piece flow   124
Theory of constraints (TOC)   124
Drum-buffer-rope   126
Improving beyond Kanban   128
Critical chain   129
Lean development   130
Global optimization   132
Checklist   136
Index   137
About the author   145



Eric Brechner is the development manager for Microsoft’s Xbox Engineering Services team. At Microsoft, he has also been development manager for, engineering learning and development, and Office Media Store. He has previously worked at Boeing, Silicon Graphics, Graftek, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The author of a book and blog on software best practices (as I. M. Wright), he holds eight patents and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics.