Leaning Kanban with Jens Coldewey

Today we had Jens Coldewey from it-agile in house to show us how to effectively use the Kanban process for agile software development. Jens made the whole coaching day a very fun and rewarding experience by sharing his seemingly endless experience and well founded opinion aroung various topics in lean software development.

One really problematic point in our own development process was the question how to cope with fixed milestones while still using Kanban – a technique that does not provide any notion of a timeline at all. Jens provided us with a simple but effective solution combining rather basic and simple steps to merge scheduled and Kanban development: By tracking an average number of DevelPoints (single Kanbans can have 1 to 5 DPs) we can pull over the board per week we can estimate the amount of work we can finish in a given amount of time. The next ingredient is breaking down user stories to such Kanbans of 1 to 5 DPs each.

Having your backlog consist of such nicely chopped units of work allows you to estimate how many of them you can do in a given amount of time. But beware – your backlog won’t be static – don’t expect uniform distribution of your work-time on the backlog items. Expect a diminishing amount of efficiency the further down you go your backlog: there will be unforseen events and impediments and they will eat time. And the further down you go your backlog the more of them you’ll have to consider.

So now that you know how to estimate what you can do how fast while still employing Kanban to improve your efficiency there’s one more open question: How to communicate your current situation amongst your team members and to your product owner? Jens’ answer was again simple but intriguing: Use burn down charts to visualize your progress – and use a linear projection (if possible) to estimate your progress into the future.

That’s just a glimpse of what Jens shared with us and I am sure it will prove to be a vital improvement to our development process. I must say the day with Jens was definitely worth every minute and so said the ROTI chart (Return On Time Invested) he made us paint at the end as well. I really hope that we’ll have Jens’ support in house again soon, am looking forward to seeing unfolding his concepts and ideas in our time only for the win, and can only recommend Jens’ advice to any agile developer out there!

Thanks Jens!

Happy leaning,



Maximilian Hainlein

I'm working for crealytics as Social Media and Marketing Manager since 2011. My motto: "It's better to be the needle than the haystack."

  • Hi Alex, thanks a lot for praise, but please wait until you’ve eaten the “dogfood” I served 😉

    Two remarks:

    As I pointed out today, this is not really Kanban but augmenting a Kanban core process with planning ideas from Scrum and XP, because that fits your business needs here.

    A more “Kanbanish” approach to calculate how much you can accomplish per time is to transform Little’s Law of Queueing Theory, which states:

    Total Cycle Time = Number of Things in Progress / Average Completion Rate


    Average Completion Rate = Number of Things in Progress / Total Cycle Time

    It should lead to the same result as counting for a week but is more robust against features that cross the week boundary.

    I had a really good time with you today too, thank you for inviting me to your interesting team!

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  • AReiffen

    This was a great workshop, Jens. We all had fun AND learned quite a lot!