Benjamin Mitchell

Benjamin Mitchell
Photo by James Neale

No doubt about it, Benjamin Mitchell’s (Twitter @benjaminm ) presentation at SyncNorwich last night certainly resonated with attendees.

Kanban: What is it good for? An introduction illustrated with war stories

Approaching a hundred people packed into The King’s Centre in Norwich for the monthly meetup of SyncNorwich, the geek-friendly interest group which was only launched 5th June this year and which has already proven to be a big hit with start-ups, developers and technologists from many tribes.

Mitchell, a Lean/Agile consultant and coach with experience in financial trading systems, delivered a proficient and well-grounded 45-minute keynote using nothing more than Post-It Notes and a powerpoint featuring index cards and even more Post-It Notes, clearly the stock-in-trade of a busy Agile Scrum master.

Networking at SyncNorwich

Networking at SyncNorwich
Photo by James Neale

Repeatedly extolling the virtues of keeping things simple and avoiding the pitfalls of planning systems like Jira, he impressed on the audience the art of the possible with a few ‘basic’ techniques from Kanban – the manufacturing process democratised by Toyota – which, when applied to the world of application development, promises to transform lurching or limping projects into lean projects with little (or less and less) wasted time.

“Monitors in daily stand ups suck the energy,” cautioned Mitchell. There spoke the voice of sometimes bitter experience, which came across loud and clear. I did notice several people in the audience stratching away on backs of envelopes, a ‘note to self’ for action next Monday perhaps. No shame in that. We were all here to learn something. My note to self: ‘buy more masking tape’

SyncNorwich 13 Sept 2012

Note to self
Photo by James Neale

His witty anecdotes and on-the-fly Questions and Answers engaged everyone and enlivened what could so easily have been a mundane or routine subject area for those without deep expertise. This meant that he connected with attendees at all levels, including those new to kanban with no prior knowledge of direct experience. Skillful stuff indeed.

Recounting tales of holding agile scrums in fire escapes (to avoid the attention of an enemy CTO) and Agile-sceptic managers who “won’t blame you – yet”, Mitchell performed like a one-man comedy store, blending hard facts and soft skills which, to me anyway, came across as persuasive and surprisingly compelling.

Mitchell recalled an Agile development project when he wore a t-shirt sporting the message “Our ambitions outstrip our capabilities” causing uproarious laughter amongst the developers and testers in the audience and a few wry smiles from secretly-embarrased managers. No names no packdrill here, mate, you’re safe.

In all, it was a well-tuned and cleverly-crafted slot. Mitchell’s delivery was as good as the content. It was hard to know how the organisers might top the Lightning Talks at the August meetup. We need not have worried.

As well as intros from Paul Grenyer, and cold beers, I think this is exacty the kind of quality that SyncNorwich will become known for.

Twitter:  @SyncNorwich
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All photos by kind permission of James Neale Photography

Benjamin Mitchell’s blog
IT Kanban Podcast