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I am a software developer and am familiar with Scrum. However, I have also started a very different type business. I raise different types of poultry for the fine dining industry. I don't think Scrum will help me increase my productivity. I have been looking at Kanban and wondered if it might be a better fit. Am I on the right track or is there a better methodology?

I understand that the day to day operations are a production issue but constant improvement is a project management issue. For example when housing thousands of animals in a building what is the best method, i.e. different cages, lighting, bedding, building layout. The type of poultry industry that I am involved in is not state of the art anymore than the car manufacturing business is. New methods and technologies are always on the horizon and those that can adapt them to there business model most effectively will be the winners.

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    What chicken-related projects are you planning to manage, and what problem does your methodology need to solve for? – Todd A. Jacobs Aug 21 '13 at 0:38
  • Hi John, welcome to PMSE! We're happy to have questions here about non-software project management, but we do need more info to get you a really great answer. You can address CodeGnome's question in the body of your question via the edit link, so you'll have more room to expand. Our site is all about editing to create the best questions possible. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Aug 21 '13 at 1:39
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    This sounds more like a production question rather than a project, given that a project is a temporary endeavor that is delivering unique products. Farming is a year-in/year-out thing more analagous to manufacturing than a project. There are some aspects of farming that could fall into the "project" category (putting in new infrastructure or equipment for example), but day-to-day effort isn't a project. – Doug B Aug 21 '13 at 17:24
  • The banking and insurance industries day to day operations have on the face of them not changed much over the last 30 years so why do we need software improvements in those industries. Mainframes, COBOL, JCL good enough, right??? – John Aschenbrenner Aug 21 '13 at 19:17
  • Yes analogous to mfg. Toyota a car manufacturer heavily uses Kanban so perhaps you have indirectly answered my question. – John Aschenbrenner Aug 21 '13 at 22:04
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I think you're on the right track. KANBAN is suggested for an assembly-line type of process. It would really work for you if your operations are aligned in that way.

Moreover, there could be some processes which you may find difficult to manage or monitor with KANBAN as it does not have feedback. In such cases you may think to club it with your knowledge of SCRUM!

Rest is all upto you. Design a process that suits your purpose.

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Every project needs to be managed, and to manage it you need to define your goal/aim. Once your aim/goals are defined you can formulate a strategy/project plan.

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  • First off not chickens. However there are many similarities. I thought of Kanban because in some regard there are many similarities between what I do and a factory. I raise ducks and pigeons. My greatest concern is quality control at all levels and constant quality improvement and efficiency of operation. One thing that is often used in our industry is Statistical Process Control, i.e. constant collection of data with analysis and feedback. I hope this clears things up and I could tell you more about this type business but I am not sure what other details would be helpful. – John Aschenbrenner Aug 21 '13 at 15:06
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TL;DR

You shouldn't be looking at project management, except possibly for inspiration. What you are really talking about is process engineering.

Projects vs. Process

Projects are generally understood to have a defined duration and a set of exit criteria. Processes, on the other hand, can be ongoing. A project contains processes, and project management is typically understood to be the art of applying controls to those processes. A process, on the other hand, can exist independently of a managed project.

In your case, you might find some of the process controls from Kanban or Lean Manufacturing to be useful in designing your processes. However, you don't necessarily need the whole framework if all you want to do is apply some of the controls and principles to your own processes.

Process Engineering

Designing or modifying a process is the domain of process engineering. Many of the agile principles are useful in process engineering. For example:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

This is the core tenet that is often restated as the "inspect-and-adapt" cycle, and I certainly recommend adopting it to ensure that you periodically review the operational effectiveness of your controls.

There are also other principles lifted from Kanban, Lean, and Scrum that may help you. These principles include:

  • Reducing different kinds of waste (muda, muri, and mura).
  • Optimizing for throughput instead of utilization.
  • Reducing cycle times.
  • Making procedures measurable and repeatable.
  • Ensuring processes and procedures are testable.

Whole books have been written on process engineering, so this can only scratch the surface. As long as you inspect-and-adapt, though, you can't help but benefit from the empirical knowledge you gain from any process or control you apply.

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  • This is a good answer but I think that one thing that you may have missed. This is from – John Aschenbrenner Aug 22 '13 at 1:18
  • What I meant to say but was unable to is. This is a good answer but I think that one thing that you may have missed. This is from kanban.co.in "Kanban is a powerful tool to control and schedule a production system using a visual approach." As I am sure you know Kanban comes from Toyota mfg. and was later adopted by IT and Software Development. – John Aschenbrenner Aug 22 '13 at 1:26
  • I think that the one thing that is missing in all of this and something I am sure that every good Project Manager is aware of is the human element. In software and manufacturing the best products and projects are ones that are produced by teams where there is good communication and everyone is actively engaged. Where all membersof the team take ownership and there by responsibility in the goal. Whether that goal be making an operating system, a garment or a car. If there is process involved then there are projects. – John Aschenbrenner Aug 22 '13 at 1:33
  • @JohanAschenbrenner - Your last sentence is wrong, as CodeGnome explain above, a process is independent of projects, but processes can be part of projects. Example: You can have a running Maintenance Process without starting up a Project for every issue, by definition of specific budget for that issue, goals etc. The process would be running maintenance, with budget for all maintenance and not for specific issue, even though it's controlled of course. Other examples are support functions like HR and Finance that have their process flows running continuously/repeatedly. – Pixic May 3 '14 at 14:07
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I understand that the day to day operations are a production issue but constant improvement is a project management issue. For example when housing thousands of animals in a building what is the best method, i.e. different cages, lighting, bedding, building layout. The type of poultry industry that I am involved in is not state of the art anymore than the car manufacturing business is. New methods and technologies are always on the horizon and those that can adapt them to there business model most effectively will be the winners.

As part of general business improvements it helps to look at the issues from a change management perspective, for example through Prosci's approach.

But realistically I would question the need to use a formal methodology, in particular if your operation is small. Better to just follow the basic principles of project management as outlined by the PRINCE2 methodology, namely:

  • Tailor the method you use to meet project needs
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities
  • Manage the project in stages
  • Manage the project by exception (i.e. with clear levels of authority and approval)
  • Have a continually justified business case
  • Focus on the end products
  • Apply lessons learned on past projects
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