Book Review: Kanban from the Inside

Kanban from the Inside


Mike Burrows

My Rating

star star star star

Kanban's community continues to refine and evolve it's principles and practices, and since last working with teams that apply the Kanban philosophy, I've missed out on understanding a lot of these changes. Fortunately, Mike Burrows' Kanban from the Inside has done an impeccable job of bringing me up to speed.

If you are unfamiliar with Kanban, I'd probably recommend reading David Anderson's seminal Kanban book first to learn about Kanban's roots. But then I'd definitely recommend you pick up a copy of Kanban from the inside as well. Both books are compelling and to the point, so I promise that getting through them both is not an arduous task.

To anyone working in software development I really do recommend you learn about Kanban. When you witness the amplifying benefits of limiting WIP (work in progress), you will be amazed at how it accentuates the inefficiences of your delivery workflow. As Mike explains, this is one of Kanban's core principles: transparency...

Principles-based Method

Interestingly this book starts off with the Kanban Method's founding principles, an accurate represenation of Kanban's evolutionary change philosophy, in contrast to say Scrum's prescriptive methodology.

Having experience of working with kanban systems, I was easily able to understand the principles - which are an addition to Kanban - and the author's experience that demonstrated them. However, for someone unfamiliar with Kanban it may not be so obvious. That's why I recommend reading the blue Kanban book first.

Most of all, I found Part 1 of this book useful because it formalized the foundations and motivations of Kanban; reminding me that Kanban is a management method that is as much about leadership, collaboration, and customer focus, as it is sticking post it notes on the wall.

Inspired by Systems Thinking, Theory of Constraints, Agile and Lean

Part 2 of Kanban in action is a cursory glance at approaches that have inspired Kanban. It was advantageous putting this section in the book, but I'm not sure it was the best decision to make it Part 2.

I think to make the book more accessible to newcomers, Part 2 should have dived into implementing Kanban systems to give readers something concrete allowing them to more rapidly build their mental model of Kanban.

Admittedly, the chapters themselves in Part 2 are enjoyable and insightful. It is valuable knowing what Kanban's influences are, and how Kanban diverges from and incorporates them.

However, it was always going to be challenging to condense approaches like Systems Thinking and Lean into small chapters. I did struggle to appreciate the author's intent at times during these chapters, but I applaud his attempts.

Applying Kanban

It was a relief when i got to Part 3 and realised this book does actually show examples of how you can implement Kanban. And in my opinion it does that very well, using STATIK (Systems Thinking Approach To Implementing Kanban).

In brief, Part 3 teaches you to basically work out the current system in your organisation. Visualise it. Highlight the problems. And then design your Kanban system. Each topic is accompanied by practical examples of how you can apply it yourself.

After reading Part 3 I feel equipped to lead a Kanban initiative should the opportunity arise - I've only ever been part of Kanban systems that were fully-operational at the time I arrived. That definitely makes this book well worthy my time and money.


Kanban from the Inside is a book that has given me knowledge that I will use to make better decisions in my career. It has given me conceptual tools that will allow me to make bigger impacts in my career. Considering I live for challenges and the opportunity to make a difference, these benefits are invaluable to me.

Aside from the questionable ordering of Part 2 and Part 3, and some sections being a touch difficult to fully discern (as with most books), I only have good things to say about Kanban from the Inside. You should read it.

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