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When should you apply Scrum?

Scrum Breakfast - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 11:13
... and when not? I was really surprised to discover it is not easy to find an answer this question. Let's look at what Scrum is, then look at when Scrum is appropriate and when not.
What is Scrum?Scrum is a simple, team-based framework for solving complex problems. Scrum is modelled on successful patterns for product development as identified in "The New New Product Development Game". I would summarize these patterns as follows:

  1. Inspect and Adapt at regular intervals
  2. Produce something that might be valuable for your customer at regular intervals
  3. One voice speaks for the customer
  4. An interdisciplinary team solves the whole problem
  5. A coach helps everybody involved to get better
  6. Management provides direction and support, and knows when it's best to stay out of the way
How is scrum different than traditional approaches? The principles of traditional management might be summarized as follows:
  1. Define a plan, follow the plan
  2. Check progress against milestones
  3. Maximize utilization of resources
  4. Managers, customers or stakeholders make key decisions
  5. Well-defined processes, carefully followed, ensure predictable results.
  6. Optimization should improve the efficiency of a process
When does Scrum make sense?
Scrum was created for solving complex problems. What is a complex problem? If you can't know the answer before you start, it's a complex problem. You may not even be sure you are asking the right question! What is the right feature set for this product? Will this product meet the needs of the market? Sure, you can answer these questions in advance, but only through validation do you know if you have gotten the right answer.
Scrum is a team-based framework. It's about people. Scrum works well when people want to do it.  
What happens when the people don't want to do Scrum? It doesn't work very well. Scrum does not lend itself to being imposed from above. You can do it, but you create huge internal resistance. A good Scrum implementation, even if top-level management wants it too, is pulled from below. When does classical management make sense?Some people would say the answer to this is never. But I think it is more complicated than that.  The patterns of classical management, which was invented by the automobile industry at the beginning of the 20th century, were hugely successful. They are the foundations of most large enterprises, and even today, as Agile methods have made development projects much more successful, an increasing percentage of the wealth generated by society stays in hands of top layers of classical management. This is also a definition of success!
So when do the patterns of classical management make sense?
The key word is predictability. If you can define a process with known inputs that produce the desired outputs, it is probably economically advantageous to do so. This works well for production problems, but is not well aligned with the needs of creative tasks like product innovation.Should you use Scrum?I would encourage you to use Scrum (or another empirical process) for unpredictable contexts:
  • Your main objective is some kind of problem solving.
  • Multiple skill sets are needed to solve the problem ("a team")  
  • Validation from customers or stakeholders is important to getting the right answer 
  • The people involved want to do it. (I often get called in to help people decide they want to do it).
I would encourage you to use a defined process for more predictable contexts:
  • A known input can lead to a predictable output
  • The problem and the solution can be clearly defined
I would encourage you not to do Scrum if the people involved do not want to do it. 
Having said that, if you ask people for examples from their own experience of great projects they'd like to emulate moving forward, these projects often look a lot like Scrum. If you ask people how they would like to organize their work, they often come up with something that looks a lot like Scrum!
    Lastly, I would also encourage you to challenge whether the tasks that you think belong to the predictable group really do belong there! 

      Categories: Blogs

      Getting Into Reflection Mode

      Ben Linders - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 08:17

      RFG 2016 - Getting Into Reflection Mode - Ben LindersI chaired a session about getting into reflection mode at the Retrospective Facilitators Gathering 2016. In this session we discussed what facilitators can do to help people to look back and reflect in an agile / Scrum retrospective meeting or at any other occasion where they want to learn from how they are doing.

      The Retrospective Facilitators Gathering is a yearly Open Space conference by and and for experienced practitioners in agile retrospectives. People from all over the world come to this gathering to share experiences and ideas and to learn from other facilitators. The 2016 edition, which was my second one attending, was held in Sagres, Portugal. In 2017 the RFG will be held in the USA, RFG 2018 will be in Europe again.


      Retrospectives Exercises Toolbox - Design your own valuable Retrospectives

      I facilitated the session “Going outside, on a sunny morning, to think about … Reflection!” outside at the conference hotel, early in the morning. Those are already things that can help people to reflect: being at a nice location away from the office and their daily work and still being fresh. Many great ideas popped up during this session that I want to share with you in this post.

      RFG 2016 - Getting Into Reflection Mode - Ben Linders

      Getting people into a reflection mode helps to dive into the current situation and create a shared understanding. This understanding makes it easier for people to see what they would like to change and to come up with effective actions to do it.

      If you are planning a (Scrum) retrospective, think about what you can do to make people reflect before deciding on what to do. Some of the ideas listed above might be helpful for that. If you want to know more about them, please contact me, and I’ll gladly help you (remember, my mission is to help people all over the world to get more value out of their agile retrospectives).

      Making of Getting Into Reflection Mode - Ben Linders RFG 2016I want to thank Jutta, Toby, George and Karen who joined this session about getting into reflection mode and brought in their ideas, experiences and inspiration! Thanks to Toby for the “making of” picture. Finally, a big thanks to Luis and the organizing committee for having RFG 2016 at such a lovely location!


      Categories: Blogs

      Us vs. Them: The IT/Business Divide

      If your organization brings IT in too late in the decision making process, you’re probably suffering from a devastating, costly IT/business divide.

      The post Us vs. Them: The IT/Business Divide appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.

      Categories: Companies

      SAFe 4.0 in 5 minutes video

      Agile Product Owner - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 20:51

      Hi All,

      Introducing SAFe to people that are unfamiliar with it can sometimes seem like a daunting task. People build really big systems with SAFe, so SAFe is not a trivial framework. As part of our efforts to make SAFe more accessible (for one such example, see the blog post on Essential SAFe), we’ve just released a short, informal five-minute video, which gives a brief overview of SAFe and how it works. You can find it here.

      SPCs have used previous versions of the video in their Leading SAFe or SAFe for Teams class. It’s also a handy, short introduction for anyone new to SAFe. It can also be used to help garner the interest needed to attract people to a session based on SAFe Foundations, SAFe in 8 Pictures, or even to a Leading SAFe class.

      We hope you find it useful,

      -Inbar Oren
      SAFe Fellow

      Categories: Blogs

      The Simple Leader!

      Evolving Excellence - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 18:21

       PRS0000030_00044]A few years ago I starting playing around with a book concept that described several personal and professional leadership methods and habits I had developed over my three decade career. I collected ideas, supporting information, and would occasionally – often on long plane trips – take a stab at writing a section or two. I even put those up on LeanPub for folks to review and comment.

      For many reasons I never made much headway. There was always something a bit more pressing, or seemingly more manageable, than tackling that behemoth of a project. I enjoy writing, and I felt I had something important to share, but it was never THE priority. In the meantime the project occupied valuable space in my brain.  As I get older I’m realizing just how valuable that space is.

      Then, last fall at the Lean Accounting Summit, I was approached by an attendee who introduced himself and immediately asked when I was going to finish the book. He knew from my blog and LeanPub that I had been working on it, and he said the story so far had really helped him improve his own leadership style. I decided it was time to either put up or shut up (the polite version of the phrase), and one way or another resolve the project and get it out of my head.

      I put up. I sequestered myself on a tiny island for two weeks in December and finished the writing. That draft went through several rounds of brutal editing by a professional copy editor, then text and graphic design. Several colleagues provided very valuable reviews, and Matthew May was kind enough to write a foreword. Todd Clarke did a great “visual one pager” summary.

      A week ago I received the final proof, and yesterday the book went live on Amazon. Kindle and iBook versions are just a few days away.

      The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen.

      Receiving that final proof felt incredibly good.  It is done and I’m very happy with how it turned out. I’m sure I’ll think of improvements over time, but for now the project is complete, and it is no longer consuming space in my head.

      The book is organized into eight parts, each with a different purpose:

      1. Fundamentals – A quick history lesson and exploration of the basics of Lean and Zen.
      2. Reconnect – Before doing anything, a leader has to be in touch with her or his inner self.
      3. Create – Methods to improve personal productivity to prepare for the work that is coming.
      4. Lead – How to engage and lead your team as you begin the improvement journey.
      5. Clarify – Clarifying what you and your organization are about, defining the current state and the desired future state, and creating a plan.
      6. Simplify – Using your new plan, you can take the first step and simplify your operation within the context of that plan.
      7. Improve – Methods to identify and execute improvement projects within the context of your plan.
      8. Grow – Within ongoing improvement projects in place, it is time to stretch yourself and your organization even further.

      I’ve been humbled by some of the initial reviews:

      I have long felt that Lean thinking and mindfulness are the two most important breakthroughs in recent years to help us sort out increasingly chaotic lives. Practicing Lean thinking is a clear path to professional success in hypercompetitive markets just as practicing mindfulness is the way to wellbeing in adverse conditions.  It also turns out that both build on each other, which is what Kevin masterfully demonstrates in this frank, well-written and deeply insightful account of his own journey. The Simple Leader is simply a fantastic read!
      Michael Ballé, author of Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice

      Leadership is at the core of any organization, and transforming leadership mindsets and practices is at the core of Lean management. Meyer is a rare author who’s not only studied Lean deeply but has also served as CEO. The Simple Leader is chock full of essential leadership practices that are key to organizational transformation and outstanding business performance alike.
      Karen Martin, author of The Outstanding Organization: Generate Business Results by Eliminating Chaos and Building the Foundation for Everyday Excellence

      If you’re thinking, “Not another book on leadership,” then you’re in luck. This is not the same old vacuous pablum that so many consultants peddle, or the same sophomoric insights that Zen fanboys wax lyrical over. Kevin’s experience as a business CEO, a student of Lean, and a practitioner of Zen combine to produce a uniquely insightful, wonderfully practical guide to management that will be useful to anyone seeking to be a better leader. I defy anyone to read this book and not learn something immediately useful, applicable, and valuable.
      Daniel Markovitz, author of Building the Fit Organization: Six Core Principles for Making Your Company Stronger, Faster, and More Competitive

      I’ve always been impressed by Kevin’s dedication to simplicity. This book collects his insights from a lifetime of experiences, travel, reading, work and reflection into a simple and practical book. Open up the table of contents and place your finger down on any topic, and I guarantee that you will find practical hints and insights in this book to help you improve. Take a moment to invest in yourself by reading and reflecting on how to reduce complexity in your life and work.
      Jon Miller,author of Creating a Kaizen Culture: Align the Organization, Achieve Breakthrough Results, and Sustain the Gains
      Lean and Agile thinking are founded in a deep ‘Respect for People’, experiential learning, and a realization that continuous improvement and innovation come from direct observation at the Gemba. In our increasingly complex, distracted and over stimulated world, presence and mindfulness, captured in the Zen instruction to ‘Pay Attention!’, are increasingly relevant. This book may not only change how you lead, but also how you live.
      Steve Bell, author of Run Grow Transform: Integrating Business and Lean IT

      One might say then that Simple, Leader, Lean, and Zen are inherently conflicted, at odds with one another, and that reconciling them would entail a rather Herculean act of creativity. But creativity is the act of bringing something new into existence, the defining quality of which entails connections between seemingly disparate ideas. This is the beauty of The Simple Leader. This is power of the Lean-Zen nexus.
      Matthew May, author of Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking

      Effective personal leadership, requiring conscious individual reflection, is a critical foundation for effective professional leadership. Building on his deep hands-on experience with core Lean and Zen concepts, principles and practices, Kevin Meyer provides the reader with concrete advice and examples necessary to become that outstanding leader. In The Simple Leader Kevin demonstrates how each of us can gain leadership clarity by reducing leadership strategy and processes down to a handful of important truths.  The Simple Leader is a short read that delivers with impact. Read this book.
      Adam Zak, co-author of Simple Excellence: Organizing and Aligning the Management Team in a Lean Transformation

      The simple leader is not simple at all! The simple leader is the one who has tamed complexity with the notion that simplicity is true elegance.  The irony is that the more successful we all become, the more we are enveloped by complexity and reject the intelligence of simplicity. The idea that Kevin could succeed in the business world and understand that success is rooted in simplicity is profound. The Simple Leader is a fantastic story of how Kevin has done this and I was taken with his honesty and brilliance.
      Paul Akers, author of Lean Health: Aging in Reverse

      Thanks to all of you who have supported me on this journey!

      Categories: Blogs

      New Practical Product Ownership Workshop Dates

      Johanna Rothman - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 17:56

      I just posted the dates for the next Practical Product Ownership workshop: Deliver What Your Customers Need. It starts Aug 23, 2016.

      You need this workshop if:

      • You are having trouble doing everything in your PO role, you might be trying to do too much. See Product Manager, Product Owner, Business Analyst?
      • You are having trouble deciding how to organize your backlog, roadmap, and everything.
      • How to value the items you do organize. We discuss Cost of Delay and seven other possibilities to rank the items.
      • How to help people articulate the problems they want the team to solve, not the solutions.
      • And much, much more.

      We meet twice a week for six weeks. Our first meeting is a 90-minute teaching call, where I teach and you ask questions. We meet later that week for a 60-minute coaching call, where you bring your problems, concerns, and challenges.

      I estimate you will have about 60-90 minutes of homework every week. Any other questions? Email me.

      Categories: Blogs

      Henry Ford and Design Thinking

      By LibertyGroup25 (Own work)
      Henry Ford pioneered many of the ideas that are now commonplace in business, including ideas used in Design Thinking. He has been quoted as saying "If you ask people what they want, it would be a faster horse." This hits on the design thinking principle of divergence. You need to understand what problem you are solving before coming up with a solution. Henry Ford wasn't solving a problem around horses, he was solving a transportation problem.

      I was in a design thinking workshop and we did an exercise where first we were asked to draw a door bell. Then we were given a problem in a different framing, we were asked to draw a way to know if someone was at the door. The second set of drawings were much different. A doorbell would have worked, but by reframing the question, many other solutions came out.

      Another Henry Ford quote is "you can have any color, as long as it's black." On the surface, this might not sound very customer friendly, However, this response was due to the solution to another problem. When he was developing the production line for the Model T, he was challenged in the painting step. He found all paint colors took to long to dry, except black. By only offering black, he was actually fixing a bottle knock in his process...applying the theory of constraints as it were.

      Next time you're working on a solution to a problem, spend a few minutes and think about the framing of the question. Can you change the question in order to expand you possible solutions?
      Categories: Blogs

      Custom Errors w/ Clean Stack Traces in Node.js

      Derick Bailey - new ThoughtStream - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 13:30

      Some recent discussion in the WatchMeCode slack spawned a bit of research into creating custom errors through factory methods, while keeping the stack trace for those errors clean, in Node.js

      After a bit of digging, I found a good solution using Node’s Error.captureStackTrace method, and recorded a quick screencast to highlight it’s use. 

      The Screencast

      The Sample Code

      If you’d like to run the sample code that I showed in this screencast, you can grab it from this gist

      Additional Resources

      And if you would like to read up on errors further, check out these additional resources:

      Categories: Blogs

      Workshop Valuable Agile Retrospectives in Utrecht

      Ben Linders - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 12:20

      UtrechtOp 21 juni geef ik de workshop Valuable Agile Retrospectives in Utrecht. In deze succesvolle workshop leer je de waarom, wat en hoe van retrospectives en oefen je in teams met diverse manieren om retrospectives uit te voeren.

      Retrospectives helpen je om Agile Practices effectief toe te passen en je teams continu te verbeteren. Scrum masters en Agile coaches halen met behulp van een toolbox met retrospective oefeningen meer uit teams, en zorgen voor blije medewerkers.


      Retrospectives Exercises Toolbox - Design your own valuable Retrospectives

      De workshop is gebaseerd op het successvolle boek Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives. Dit boek is ook beschikbaar in het Nederlands: Waardevolle Agile Retrospectives. Iedere deelnemer ontvangt een persoonlijk exemplaar van het Engelstalig of Nederlandstalige ebook.

      De workshop wordt in het Engels gegeven zodat professionals die geen Nederlands spreken ook deel kunnen nemen. Als alle deelnemers Nederlands spreken geef ik de workshop uiteraard in het Nederlands :-).

      Schrijf je in voor 1 juni en betaal maar €484,- (in plaats van €645,-) voor deze workshop. Elke 2e en volgende collega ontvangt 25% korting bij gelijktijdig aanmelden. Aanmelden


      Categories: Blogs

      Links for 2016-05-15 []

      Zachariah Young - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 09:00
      Categories: Blogs

      The Power of Agile is in your Customers and Employees

      I’m Agile, you’re Agile, everyone is Agile.  Or folks think they are.  But are they really? If Agile is only a process to you, Agile will fail. If Agile is pretending certainty without validating with customers, then Agile will fail. If Agile is commanded from above with little ownership from the team, Agile will fail.  More importantly, not only Agile will fail, so will your business.  Agile is a move to a lean culture focusing on customers and what they find as value and focusing on employees who are the engine that can create that value.  Agile is effectively about creating a thriving business. 
      I believe there are the two primary success factors in creating a thriving business: a culture where customers matter and employees matter. I’m not talking about the lip service that is prevalent today. In some cases, we see quite the opposite, where employees are disenfranchised and customers are rarely engaged. Instead, the goal is to have a culture and practices in place that truly gain the benefits of engaging with customers and employees. Through the customer and employee, a company draws their power within an agile culture and, I contend, within any thriving company. When you have a riveting focus on the customer and you believe that an engaged customer matters, then you have the basis for a relationship where you can truly understand what the customer wants. When you have a sharp focus on employees and provide them the space to make decisions and own their work, then you will begin to understand the value an engaged employee base can provide.
      If the values are sincerely translated to organizational objectives and agile approaches are applied, then it can act as a differentiator between the success of your organization compared to the success of other organizations. Of course, every company likes to say that employees and customers matter, but are their objectives and actions really aligned with these values? Upon closer inspection, the values should translate into objectives focusing on customer engagement and employee engagement.
      • Customer engagement focuses on establishing meaningful and honest customer relationships with the goal of initiating continuous customer feedback to truly identify what is valuable to the customer. This includes establishing all of the activities involved in a Customer Feedback Vision.
      • Employee engagement focuses on empowering employees so they can self-organize into teams and can own and be a part of the decision-making process at their own level.  When employees have ownership, they have more passion in their work.  When they have more passion, they give 110%. 

      Then we add the “secret ingredient” of applying a continuous and adaptive approach (a.k.a. agile culture, processes, methods, practices, and techniques). If done properly with the ability to adapt, this can lead to an increase in customer sales and an increase in team productivity. This finally leads to your incentive, which is an increase in company profits.  
      Now is time to take a moment.  Are employees disenfranchised or fully engaged?  Are customers rarely engaged or is their feedback continuously engaged?  Is Agile just a trend that others should do or are you serious about Agile and the culture shift it requires?  Keep in mind, the combination of customer and employee engagement within an Agile context isn’t just a good idea, it is great for business.  
      PS - to read more about the importance of customers and employees, consider reading Chapter 3 of the book entitled Being Agile.  
      Categories: Blogs

      SATURN 2016, San Diego - Sun, 05/15/2016 - 16:54

      I first heard of SATURN via social media through Michael Keeling, an IBM employee who spoke at XP2009 many years ago. Sam Newman spoke last year about Microservices. Although the conference has a Call For Papers (CFP) each year, they also had a small number of invited speakers and Michael organised for me to go along to talk about Evolutionary Architecture.

      SATURN is a conference organised by the SEI (Software Engineering Institute). SEI are probably most well known for CMM, although there is now another institute responsible for it. The conference has been running since 2005 and has a long history of focusing on architectural concerns.

      Architecting the UnknownArchitecting the Unknown keynote by Grady Booch (@Grady_Booch) What I really liked about the conference

      I believe that one of SATURN’s greatest strengths is a focus on architectural thinking, through the application of the latest tools. Unlike some other conferences, I felt like the programme tried to assemble a good collection of experience reports and presentations that emphasised the architectural principles, rather than focusing on the current tools.

      Although this may be less popular for people wanting to learn how to use a specific tool, I feel this emphasis is much more valuable and the lessons longer lasting.

      What I also really enjoyed about the conference was the relatively small size which was just over 200 participants from various parts of the world. Having a good location, and small size allowed for some better quality conversations both with other speakers and attendees. One good example of the conference facilitating this, was an office hours session for attendees to easily ask questions of speakers. I shared by office hours with Eoin Woods (author of Software Systems Architecture) and Grady Booch (IBM Fellow, One of the Three Amigos who were best known for developing the Unified Modeling Language).

      SATURN 2016 Conference DinnerConference dinner at a baseball game for SATURN 2016

      Another example to reinforce that was connecting with Len Bass (one of the authors of Software Architecture in Practice) at the conference dinner (at a baseball game).

      Other observations

      During the conference I spoke with many people carrying various Architect titles. Interestingly many came from many larger organisations and government agencies, which shouldn’t have been any surprise given the history of the conference. I remember meeting and speaking with one particular Enterprise Architect (EA), who seemed to be one of the most pragmatic EAs I’d met, who was trying at all costs to stop his board randomly signing large contracts with product vendors like Oracle and IBM without the proper diligence about understanding what they were actually building.

      At the same time, I met a number of architects struggling to help their organisations see the value of architecture and the role of the architect.

      My talk

      I spoke after Booch’s initial keynote, “Architecting for the Unknown” which lead really well onto the topic I was speaking on, “Evolutionary Architecture“. I had a packed room as was a topic that resonated with people. At one point the conference organised brought more chairs into the room and there was still only standing room for the 90 minute talk! I had some great questions and conversations throughout and found out later that I won the award for the best conference talk in the “Architecture in Practice” category!

      Evolutionary Architecture TalkSATURN Evolutionary Architecture talk audience

      I’d definitely recommend attending SATURN if you’re interested in focused on building architectural thinking and an opportunity to connect with architects across the industry. The size is great for conversations, sharing experiences and with next year’s scheduled for Colorado will be really interesting too.

      Final thanks

      I’d like to thank the organising group calling out Michele Falce (Technical Event Coordinator), Bill Pollak (General Chair), Jørn Ølmheim and Amine Chigani (Technial Co-Chairs) who did a great job putting together a fantastic conference, John Klein for hosting Office Hours, and Michael Keeling for organising an invite for me.

      Categories: Blogs

      Pitch your product using the 3x3 framework

      Xebia Blog - Sun, 05/15/2016 - 11:26
      When pitching innovative product ideas, you only get between five and fifteen minutes of attention. To make those minutes count, you should be able to define your product vision in a simple but comprehensive way. For this, I’ve found this 3x3 framework technique useful. Not only is it a pretty good format for pitching your
      Categories: Companies

      SAFe as a Framework

      NetObjectives - Sun, 05/15/2016 - 10:36
      The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a framework as "the basic structure of something: a set of ideas or facts that provide support for something." Clearly, SAFe is more than a framework; it also offers a set of practices and patterns to fill in the framework and this is how it is taught in the standard SAFe course. The advantage of this is that people understand the essence of SAFe faster....

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      Categories: Companies

      Links for 2016-05-13 []

      Zachariah Young - Sat, 05/14/2016 - 09:00
      Categories: Blogs

      How Integrating Zendesk with LeanKit Changed Customer Support

      My name is Andy Hoover and I manage our Customer Support operations here at LeanKit. I spend...

      The post How Integrating Zendesk with LeanKit Changed Customer Support appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.

      Categories: Companies

      Versnel je team met Scrumban!

      Xebia Blog - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 14:01
      Herken je dat ook? Teams die meer dan een half jaar aan het scrummen zijn en sprint commitments maar niet halen? Of maar geen stijgende 'velocity' laten zien? Blijven verbeteren zonder een echte verbetering te zien? Scrumban is het toepassen van de Kanban Methode in de context van scrum en geeft deze teams een weg
      Categories: Companies

      My Favorite Thing To Do With Code

      Derick Bailey - new ThoughtStream - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 13:30

      There are a lot of great aspects of software development, including writing code, solving problems, and generally working with cool technology and toys.

      But of all the things that I do as a developer, there is 1 thing in particular that I absolutely love doing. And that one thing? It’s not solving problems, surprisingly (though this is probably a close 2nd).

      Categories: Blogs

      Knowledge Sharing

      SpiraTeam is a agile application lifecycle management (ALM) system designed specifically for methodologies such as scrum, XP and Kanban.