Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



David Anderson, International Pioneering Top Authority in Agile, Lean, Kanban Methodology and CMMI

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with David Anderson.

David AndersonDavid Anderson is a thought leader in managing highly effective knowledge work teams. He is CEO of David J. Anderson & Associates, based in Seattle, Washington, a management consulting firm dedicated to improving leadership in the IT and software development sectors.

David has been part of the agile and lean methodology movement since 1997 when he participated in the team that developed Feature Driven Development at United Overseas Bank in Singapore. He has 26 years experience in the software development starting in the computer games business in the early 1980's. As a pioneer in the agile software movement David has managed teams at Sprint, Motorola and Corbis delivering superior productivity and quality. At Microsoft in 2005, he developed the MSF for CMMI Process Improvement methodology - the first agile method to provide a comprehensive mapping to the Capability and Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) from the Software Engineering Institute (SEI).

His first book, "Agile Management for Software Engineering – Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results", published in 2003 by Prentice Hall, introduced many ideas from Lean and Theory of Constraints into software engineering. In David's more recent book, "Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business", he pioneers the Kanban Method for knowledge work.

David is a popular and entertaining conference speaker. He has written or co-authored many articles and papers and is best known for his Agile Management blog. Most recently, David co-authored a Technical Note from the Software Engineering Institute titled, "CMMI and Agile: Why not embrace both!"

He holds a degree in Electronics and Computer Science from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. He has six U.S. Patents and another five pending for his work in telecoms and the Internet. He lives in Seattle, Washington, USA.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:26: David, you have a strong history of significant global impact in software development, performance improvement and agile software development as a founder of the agile movement and as a founder of the APLN, a non-profit dedicated to improving management and leadership in technology companies. You are also the leading international thought leader in business agility and enterprise scale agile software transitions through the CMMI model integrated with Agile and Lean methods. Thank you for sharing your considerable expertise, deep accumulated insights and wisdom with our audience.

:01:40: David shares about his pioneering work in the Agile and Lean methodology movement.

:05:10: What lessons can you share from your time managing teams at Sprint, Motorola and Corbis?
"....Leadership is number one....Communication is probably the next one....Management is important when you're introducing agile methods....People will resist the adoption of new techniques and you need to find ways of motivating people to embrace change and recognize that the motivation has to overcome their emotional resistance....I've come to realize that avoiding using the word 'performance' is actually important. It's much more useful to talk about capability and the capability of the organization...."

:11:30: Describe your work at Microsoft and outline best practices and then benefits resulting from this work.
"....I really value my time at Microsoft. They gave me some great opportunities, really good exposure and it was during that time that I really forged my friendship and deep relationship with the people at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. I really value the opportunity and I look back on that time as an important and really pivotal point in my career...."

:14:12: Describe your first book and the top tips from the book?
"....My first book was called 'Agile Management Software Engineering'. The premise of that book was to demonstrate (to an audience reading it in 2003) that agile methods could be applied in larger corporations and that there was a logical reason for pursuing adoption of them, which was very simply that there was a better economic outcome from the use of agile methods....A number of core themes there: managing flow, making invisible work visible, probabilistic versus deterministic management approaches, and really introducing the word bottleneck into the lexicon of the software development community...."

:18:52: What is Kanban basically and what are the benefits companies can draw from it?
"....Alistair Cockburn described agile methods as what he calls 'stretched to fit'....He compared that as very different from 20th century process approaches which he described as 'shrink to fit'....The Kanban method really introduces the third way which I described as 'evolved to fit'....So Kanban really is introducing a new way of improving agility of organizations and perhaps it is appropriate that it is called a second generation agile method...."

:25:54: How can Kanban be implemented in a company? Which steps and approach do you recommend?
"....There’s an entire system-thinking approach involved in designing the visualization and the Kanban system initially and in thinking of how we introduce it....The evolutionary approach to Kanban is about enabling teams to come to their own conclusion about the changes that need to be made and to suggest and to implement those changes themselves...."

:31:05: What are some examples of companies that have successfully integrated Kanban?
"...If you ask me for a summary of industries, then Media is number one. Games, gaming is probably number two. There’s also investment and retail banking, insurance, pensions — so financial sector big adopters. Then Web 2.0 software service companies...."

:34:39: How does Kanban differ from Agile systems like Scrum or Extreme Programming?
"....Extreme Programming is quite rightly an Agile software development method and Kanban isn't. Kanban is an approach to improving the agility of organizations and this idea of evolved effect, so whatever you are doing now as a software development method, rather than try and change it to something new such as Extreme programming, you simply try and improve it slowly, incrementally in an evolutionary fashion....When you talk to the people in that community they will often tell you that Scrum is a framework for change....I did a fairly extensive blog post on what I saw as the differences in philosophy between Kanban and Scrum. See blog post on how Kanban differs from Scrum: ("

:37:23: What do you predict is the future of Kanban and the role it'll play in business (and even personal lives)?
"....If I were to speculate I would suggest that we would see more law firms doing it, architecture firms, advertising agencies, media firms generally. I think we will see Kanban break out beyond software development and IT services where it is now and I think the personal Kanban movement has a lot to do with that...."

:42:21: What would you consider the best resources to get more information on Kanban?
"....Lean-Kanban University....Limited WIP Society...."

:44:37: Please overview your Technical Note from the Software Engineering Institute titled, "CMMI and Agile: Why not embrace both!"
"....The simple core message is that organization maturity is important and it's also orthogonal to the implementation of the individual process....The technical note was really designed to write a definitive reference on the topic and I think it's played that role by and large. I think that the argument that Agile and CMMI are somehow not compatible has largely disappeared over the last few years...."

:50:33: You have an outstanding history contributing in the non-profit sector. Can you describe some of this work?
"....I was involved with forming the APLN and more recently forming Lean Software Consortium....I've been involved in forming these non-profit organizations to help develop the community and we do that community development in a number of different ways....We generally promote the core values and ideas behind either Agile Project Management and more recently Kanban, so that the people who feel an affinity to the problems that those methods are solving can come together and feel some companionship with others who have the same affinity to the same problems...."

:53:10: David, in your travels and in all of your extensive research working with the communities, you must come up with challenges, roadblocks and others which place demands on you in some way and you have to overcome them. Can you tell us about some of these and perhaps some valuable lessons you wish to share?
"....The travel schedule that I have is a personal challenge and I have my own ways of coping with that....Delegating to people and taking opportunities to take stress out of your personal life, work situations...."

:55:41: How will you accomplish your top goals in your current position and how will you measure success for each of these goals?
"....Our core focus is to encourage the development of a healthy community. We believe by doing that our business will continue to grow and be successful...."

:57:17: Describe areas of controversy or much discussion in the areas that you research and work.
"....We think of Kanban as a 21st century approach to evolving the knowledge workplace and that is controversial. The traditional 20th century approach is to define these managed change initiatives with approved business plans and business cases and to appoint change agents to manage the transition, where what we're really teaching people is the idea that they should be changing the culture of the companies...."

:01:01:34: Earlier you talked about companies in the automotive industry adopting your methodology. Have you talked to Toyota in terms of reaction about your work and how it's receiving worldwide?
"....What we're doing with Kanban is really the closest facsimile to Toyota's approach as appeared in IT and software development...."

:01:07:47: What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized credentials?
[See and the Global Industry Council,]
"....I would very much like what we do for a living to be seen as a profession and for that to happen in my professional lifetime....Where there is a high cost of failure, government has a habit of stepping in and providing some regulation and definition, and that creates an economic environment that allows a professional body to emerge and thrive because putting in place a professional regulation has a cost associated with it...."

:01:14:34: If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....How could our systems thinking approach improve an agile workplace?.... What are the major challenges that the Kanban method is actually addressing?....What are the benefits of Kanban that I could sell to my boss ?...."