Kanban Is My First Language

I was chatting with Benjamin Mitchell recently on the way back from the recent Skillsmatter event at the BBC and said something along the lines of, “I think in terms of Kanban, even when I teach Scrum”. I’ve been mulling over that idea more recently and decided that its a good analogy. Kanban and Scrum are just like different languages.

Different languages can all express the same ideas, but each has its own strength and weaknesses which can give a different interpretation. Its also important that when you speak in a language, that the listener speaks the same language. Conversations between two people who speak different languages can be very painful, and often confusing! It is possible to aid communicate by using multiple languages, however, swapping occasional words or phrases when necessary. Similarly, different methods or processes can all be expressing the same ideas slightly differently, which can cause confusion or help communication of those ideas.

I’m not multi-lingual (in the literal sense), but I can imagine that being able to speak more than one language gives a good insight into how languages work, as well as making learning further new languages easier. Knowing the various grammar rules and other such things that I don’t understand is probably very useful in being a better communicator. Similarly, understanding different methods or processes can give us deeper insight into how and why they work, and help us improve further.

However, when I try to speak in another language, I always think in English. I imagine that’s common and that it’s rare even for skilled multi-linguists to switch the language they think in. So using the language analogy, I currently think about software development in the language of Kanban. Its my first language.

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7 comments on “Kanban Is My First Language

  1. Pingback: Dew Drop – July 10, 2009 | Alvin Ashcraft's Morning Dew

  2. I like your analogy here. I look at lean and kanban to understand the mechanics of why SCRUM works. There are certain principles at work in both of these methodologies that can be understood thru lean.

  3. As a related aside, finding oneself thinking in the language one is about to speak is a sign of developing fluency, and some would even say it is a prerequisite of fluency. Polyglot software engineering, process engineering, etc. is a very healthy thing, but I wonder whether or not, as with language, one cannot truly understand language X or process Y while still in mental-translation mode as opposed to finding oneself thinking directly in X or Y.

  4. I really liked the analogy Karl.

    I wouldn’t get caught up in the first language reference, i think the key point for me was to understand the concept of being multi-lingual in order to speak about similar practices.

    I think there are some more rich insights to be had around this and it deserves more time to be spent on it to paint a richer picture.

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