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Book Review: Kanban In Action

Title: Kanban In Action
Authors: Marcus Hammarberg and Joakim Sundén

Rating: 5 Stars (more info)

Overview: “Kanban In Action” is a wonderful, well organized, and well-written book. I can see this being a book that I reference frequently due to the richness of the content and its practical approach.

In general, I am a fan of Kanban and believe that there are principles that can be used in any implementation (traditional, Agile, Scrum, etc) and not just Kanban. My comments are mainly focused on the book, compared to the subject, and I do plan on doing a more in-depth discussion of Kanban in future posts.

Addendum: I also noticed that both chapter 1 and chapter 13 are available for free from the Manning Publications website. There is great value in both of these chapters and well worth your time.

What I Liked:

  • The book is both practical and pragmatic. You can get dirty using Kanban quickly with a minimum of theory and overhead.
  • The first chapter nicely introduces the material by telling a short story about a software development team being introduced to Kanban
  • The pass the pennies game is mentioned and discussed. It’s a great resource that I can never find easily. There is also an entire chapter dedicated to teaching games.
  • The authors focus on three simple principles (visualize, limit work in process, and manage flow) that form the foundation of Kanban. This is central to their pragmatic approach, but they also provide a sidebar conversation that explains how this varies from other Kanban material.
  • The authors support and encourage a large physical kanban board, even if you also have an electronic board. The main reasons are that this server as an information radiator and as a natural gathering place for the team.
  • There is a fabulous section about the daily standup along with practices to makes your event efficient and productive. These practices include “walk the board” and “focusing on smells”. This section is invaluable and can be used by any Agile practitioner to improve their daily stand ups.
  • There is a lot of material covered in 310 pages, not only Kanban-centric topics such as WIP and flow management but also topics such as #noestimates, retrospectives, root-cause analysis, statistical process control, and cumulative flow diagrams.
  • External material is referenced often in the book and there is a great appendix for related books, blogs, and twitter accounts.
  • You can get a free electronic version (pdf, epub, kindle) by registering your physical copy of the book because it is a Manning publication.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters or the icons. I think having characters can help make a connection with the reader, but thought it was overdone. For example, I honestly can’t remember if Eric was a developer or tester.
  • “Line of cards” estimating is discussed and the material is present well. However, I don’t know why “affinity estimating” is never mentioned, which is the more common name for the technique.


  • “He’s an agile coach; naturally he has stickies with him at all times.” (p.7)
  • “Remember, we want it simple and easy. If you see a need to later, you can always change it.” (p. 13)
  • “Work isn’t done until it’s producing value to the customer”. (p. 18)
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