Mattias Skarin

Mattias Skarin

Kanban, Lean and Agile mysteries

How do you develop awesome products?

For  this year’s Stop Starting conference, we asked ourselves three questions:

  • How do you develop awesome products?
  • How do you bootstrap a successful mega project using Agile contracts?
  • How do you use Agile and Lean thinking to turn a stagnant company around?

We then picked the brains of people from real companies who have been there and done it. Listen to how companies like King and Spotify evolve their products in a global market. How Åre Skidfabrik developed an award winning product together with a community in no time.  We have more great stories to share on this special day.

Check out the Stop Starting 2015 agenda at: 

.. and register now to reserve your seat on October 20:th, here in Stockholm. It’s worth the trip, we promise!

A short intro video ( ..who the heck let these guys out? :)

Using Agile in Hardware To Develop New Products In One Day

Team developing new productsCan you develop new products from scratch in one day?

This challenge was taken on by the Medical HW manufacturer Optinova in August. Over the course of two days, we pushed the limits of “what is possible” by applying Agile in a HW environment.

Our hypothesis was that Agile would be a good fit in product development and innovation scenarios. And the result so far from the work that we have been doing with Optinova is promising.

Cross-functional teams, focus, rapid prototyping, close customer feedback and visual overview work just as well in hardware as in software. The training setup we used was as follows:

  • Day 1 – Learn basic Agile practices and principles
  • Day 2 – Applying them – developing three product ideas from scratch in one day, in a rapid prototyping workshop.

The result: All three participating teams managed to take an idea to working prototype in a day. One team went so far as submitting a bid to a real customer the following day based on their prototype. That’s high speed, even in software terms. But the most important thing wasn’t the result, it was the lessons learned. When we asked the participants if they wanted to continue to build products this way, the votes were unanimously in favor. If we can get it to work, this would help build a competitive and innovative company. read more »

Hur Wunderkraut håller budget och skapar långvariga relationer med hjälp av Agila kontrakt

Vi har byggt en sajt där med goda exempel, för att inspirera företag, myndigheter och verksamheter på väg in i en upphandling att ta steget till Agila kontrakt. Check it out – Eller följ oss på twitter: @agilakontrakt.

wundkraut_personerna-268x400Turen har kommit till att berätta om Wunderkraut, som använt Agila kontrakt sedan 2010. Det intressanta är hur de i den ombytliga webb och reklamvärlden, framgångsrikt bygger långvariga relationer med sina kunder. De har tagit steget från att se Agil utveckling som “något som sker inom IT” – till något som driver bättre affärer. Agila kontrakt är av nycklarna. Läs hela storyn här.


Psst:  Häng med på vårt frukostseminarium den 16 Oktober om upphandling med Agila kontrakt som vi samarrangerar med Wunderkraut. Varför inte ta chansen och träffa oss båda? Anmäl dig på:



Real World Kanban – now on Amazon

My new Kanban case book now ships from Amazon (as hardcover or in Kindle format).

new book: "Real World Kanban"Learn how we:

  • Improved the full value chain by using Enterprise Kanban.
    (Find out how we improved time to market and shifted focus from Sprints to Flow to deliver customer value in a traditional company.)
  • Boosted engagement, teamwork, and flow in change management and operations.
  • Saved a derailing project with Kanban.
  • Helped an office team outside IT keep up with growth using Kanban.

Inside each case story, you’ll find guerilla techniques on how we made improvements happen (including cases where we #failed). I also walk through why focusing on “improving IT” can make you miss your biggest improvement opportunity (the front end part of your value stream) as well as the 5 system “enablers” that guided our long term improvements.

Get “Real World Kanban” from:

Slides from Hookedfest

Just back from Hookedfest – a conference for product people. It’s refreshing to see and discuss product development from a market and product perspective, in contrast to the “what can we build” perspective we all to often resort to as engineers.

It was interesting to see other speakers (for example the Google guy) share similar experiences on product development (keep up speed, prototype and fail fast). I couldn’t agree more on the quote: “If it isn’t tested, it is broken”.

The coolest demo of the day was a JavaScript live code demo of JS interacting with HW devices for example pulse meters . (Thanks @wouter).

Thanks Maarten for bringing together so many interesting people.
Here are my slides – Introducing Concepts.





eBook release: Real World Kanban

My new book – “Real World Kanban” is now available. Here’s the plot in a nutshell:

What happens when Kanban is used in real projects? Kanban has few rules, but an infinite number of strategies. What seems easy in theory can become tangled in practice. So there’s nothing like learning from real world cases. Learn how we:

  • Improved the full value chain by using Enterprise Kanban.
    (Find out how we improved time to market and shifted focus from Sprints to Flow to deliver customer value in a traditional company.)
  • Boosted engagement, teamwork, and flow in change management and operations.
  • Saved a derailing project with Kanban.
  • Helped an office team outside IT keep up with growth using Kanban.

Inside each case story, you’ll find guerilla techniques on how we made improvements happen (including cases where we #failed). I also walk through why focusing on “improving IT” can make you miss your biggest improvement opportunity (the front end part of your value stream) as well as the 5 system “enablers” that guided our long term improvements.

Sounds interesting?  You can get “Real World Kanban” from:

new book: "Real World Kanban"











Learning Lego Serious Play

Three months ago I stumbled upon a question which needed an anwer: Could Lego be used for business strategy development? I just had to go to London to find out the answer.

With a group of 12 I spent the full weekend.. building Lego! When was the last time I did that? (hint: some 30 years ago..). The real interesting part is of course the stories we tell about the models. Each time we do, the team moves closer towards a shared understanding and also generate new insights. That’s cool!

Below: Team members walking through our shared model.


read more »

Kickstart workshops with energizing exercises

Do participants fade away in a long “zzz..”  or the perfect time to update yourself on what your friends are doing on FB? No more!

Check out the Energizer bible for nifty tricks for keeping up the energy level during workshops and trainings.

The energizer bible

Agila kontrakt och effektstyrning – Slides från frukostföreläsning för It-chefer

I morse höll vi (Mia och Mattias) ett lyckat föredrag för morgonpigga IT-chefer och andra som hade kommit till Crisp för att lära sig lite mer om hur man kan använda Agila kontrakt för att förbättra beställningar, relationer och leverera produkter och tjänster som skapar önskvärda effekter.

Föreläsningen var ett smakprov på vad vi kommer att gå igenom på kursen “Certifierad Agil Beställare” i mars 2015. Boka din plats nu för att lära dig mer.

Vi tror att många stora företag och framför allt myndigheter har mycket att vinna på att upphandla på effekt i stället för fast scope. Vi påvisade nyttan med att fokusera på effekt och gav 5 tips på hur man kan säkerställa att rätt produkt byggs och att man uppnår önskade effekter. Vi visade också på vad forskningen säger om sambandet mellan goda relationer och samarbete och bra leveranser, samt även hur man inom LOU med hjälp av Agila kontrakt även kan undvika att beställa en lösning, man kan istället tillsammans med leverantören ta reda på vad man behöver bygga och beställa på effekt. Samt självklart ett smakprov på vilka Agila kontrakt som finns i dag.

Frukostföreläsning för IT chefer  om Agila kontrakt
Vår förhoppning är att den här kursen ska ge beställare och leverantörer bättre relationer och större gemensam förståelse för processen. Vilken kan resultera i bättre produkter som skapar mer effekt för lägre kostnad. Har man gått kursen så ska man klara av att hålla en upphandling själv utan att ta hjälp av upphandlingskonsulter.

Missade du föreläsningen?
Vi planerar att hålla samma föreläsning igen i januari vid två tillfällen i samarbete med två olika webbyråer, för deras kunder. Hör av er om ni är intresserade att komma på någon av dom, eller om ni vill att vi kommer och föreläser för era kunder.

The impact on quality and predictability of Agile and XP

It’s always nice to look at real data and these two studies are worth their read.

  • “Impact of Agile” from Rally compares the effect of WIP and estimation techniques on productivity and quality.
  • “The State of Developer Productivity” by Rebel labs examines the effect of XP style techniques on quality and predictability.

read more »

Agila kontrakt – slides från Devlin 2014 (swe)

Här är mina slides om Agila kontrakt från Devlin 2014.

Jag hoppas det skall inspirera fler företag och myndigheter att börja använda sig av dem, då de medför väsentligt lägre risk än traditionella kontrakt.
(Använder du Agila kontrakt idag – tveka inte att höra av dig!)

Vi har i Sverige dåliga practicies för upphandlingar och har redan halkat efter våra grannländer. Det gör att vi tappar nödvändig konkurrenskraft som vi verkligen behöver för att fortsätta utvecklas i global värld.


Slutligen vill jag påpeka vikten av att inte bara se till kontraktet utan att ha koll på två andra processer:

  • Hur veta jag var jag skall beställa?
  • Hur utvärderar och väljer jag leverantör

Detta går jag och Mia Kolmodin som framgångsrikt hjälpt flera företag med beställning igenom på vår kurs “Certifierad Agil Beställare (9-10 Mars)”, ett initiativ för att öka kundmognaden vid beställning och upphandling, både för privat och offentlig sektor.

Väl mött – här är slides från presentationen

Video – product development without the product owner

Crisp’s Youtube channel has made a new release – introducing Concepts.

Concepts is used to let passionate people run with ideas, a different approach than that of traditional product ownership. If you do use in conjunction with a product owner, it allows that person to spend more time on the field with customers.

Ps: The mastermind behind the illustrations -> Jimmy Janlén!

More on concepts:



Vad du inte visste om LOU – Lagen om offentlig upphandling

(this post will be in Swedish since it is a response to Swedish legislation describing how to sell and buy software. If you still are interested, Google Translate is your best friend :)

LOU – Lagen om offentlig upphandling är fröet till många katastrofer för statliga och kommunala mjukvaruprojekt. Tänkt som ett verktyg för att hushålla väl med statliga medel, genom att konkurrensutsätta erbjudanden bidrar LOU tyvärr till att skapa dåliga förutsättningar för att lyckas med mjukvara.

Det knasiga med LOU är de felaktiga incitamenten: Om vi antar att de funktioner som är användbara är relativt okända i ett tidigt stadium av projektet så är default practice vid användandet av LOU att funktionerna skall specas i början och sedan skall billigast leverantör väljas. Det vanligaste sättet att jämföra leverantörer är att skapa en lång lista av den sammanlagda funktionaliten i deras produkter och sedan låta dem bjuda på minsta kostnad. Inte oväntat kommer vinnande leverantör efter kontraktet’s inskrivande att snabbt flytta på senior kompetens ur projektet till fördel för junior och vips befinner både kunden och leverantören i en långsam dödsdans där kundens användare blir förlorarna.

LOU innehåller dock ett antal möjligheter som du som upphandlare kan nyttja smart.

read more »

Slicing cheatsheet

sliced-appleOne of the key challenges for any organization moving to a Lean flow is learning to slice bigger things to small. If you practice this long enough this becomes second nature and you stop thinking about how you do it.  The good news is this skill can be taught and to show the dimensions available for to consider I put together this small cheat sheet.

I use it as a reminder when training product managers, marketing people, architects and senior developers to slice product ideas, projects, market initiatives and architecture changes to smaller pieces. It builds on ideas from Ellen Gottesdiener, Henrik Kniberg and Bill Wake.

Download the slicing cheatsheet.


Slides from Stop Starting Lean Kanban Nordic 2014

Logo LKN14

Had a great day at Stop Starting Start Finishing – Lean Kanban Nordic. It is cool to see how far companies have come in applying Lean in software, especially experimenting with how to tie together the full value chain. Saku Tuominen really challenged us to think make innovation actionable and not put it into a process, I couldn’t agree more, I hope the Lean Kanban community will keep challenging itself and our sourrounding.  There are many great things presented this day, it deserves a summary post in the future.

Together with Susanne Karlsson from SMHI I presented an Enterprise Kanban case study. I hope it can inspire both companies and government departements to adopt end-to-end flow thinking.

Here are the slides  (In Swedish)

Here are the slides (English version)

A good decision process

A fundamental component for fluid operations is an organization’s ability to solve problems and make decisions. Any change or transformation cannot move faster than it’s ability to make decisions and communicate these. This is key if we realize that living with changes is the future status quo of operations.

Many years ago when I was still at University I got to meat a leader at production facility at Volvo, he asked us,

“How long time does it take from when the management team has made a decision and a worker on the shop floor grasps what this means?”

“Three years”.

Without a doubt, this is way to slow for product development and software. But it puts a finger on the starting point for a normal, traditional company, before any lean or agile transformation begins. So, in order to succeed with a transformation that will challenge existing (often plan based structures) we need a better decision & communication process.

read more »

Slides from Mix-IT

Just back from Mix IT in Lyon. A bit rare to visit a French conference so was cool to meet people from the French community and see what they are up to.

Some reflections:

  • Saw a cool presentation on Prioritizing portfolios using Cost of Delay by Özlem Yüce. No doubt mr Don had an idea or two in there.. Great presentation. Read more about the case here.
  • Talking about serious things has never been easier, attended a Lego / Serious play workshop where the power of being able to talk about something (using physical metaphors) rather than against someone was clearly demonstrated. Looking forward to learn more about this. A great tool in to dismantle sensitive subjects in team environments.

I did my talk on Visualization. Next time will update with more examples. Slides are here.

The lean conference of the year – Stop Starting 2014

Stop Starting Start Finishing . Lean Kanban Nordic 2014

This years Lean Kanban Nordic conference will be something extra. The focus in on improving the full value chain, from concept to cash. You will get an unique opportunities to listen and discuss with practitioners sharing their experience of how they have improved their companies using Lean thinking. For example, learn:

read more »

Why you are better off using a developer than a lawyer when purchasing software

The use of traditional contracts when purchasing software carry a flawed assumption – thinking the contract is the right mean to regulate risk.

The insight is key risks are : skill of the provider, the maturity of the client (yes you!) and ability to communicate honestly during the project. Few of these are effectively regulated using traditional contracts focusing on features, time and money.

Which are the key risks when purchasing software?

  • Lack of provider skill
  • Lack of customer maturity
  • Lack of ability to utilize late learning
  • A one time shot to get any IT updates in my environment
  • I win, you loose approach – no shared economic incentive
  • Lack of communication, during execution

read more »

Coaching questions for a kanban team

Kanban is easy to set up,  maintaining and improving is harder!

When I visit a kanban team, I use these questions to check they know what they are doing. They are helpful since they are not tool focused, rather verifies that there is a  tactic being used. After each question I add “please show it to me” to check it’s a working practice not a paper practice.

  • How do you prioritize?

To work on prioritized content is a human right.

  • How do you ensure you don’t work on too much?

This is what WIP limits in kanban are for. But you might have evolved to other techniques. This verified that you have a deliberate tactic how how to handle this. Maybe you simply par program every task!

  • How do you share knowledge?

Building skill quickly is the way we build capability. If there is no deliberate thought here we cannot scale.

  • How do you improve?

How do we learn about our capability over time? How do you act when if it drops? Typically lead time measurements, queue size in front of team and quality metrics are helpful here. I look to see they are fact based. Simply doing team retrospectives is not enough, we need external and capability feedback too.

  • What should be improved next?

What and why? How do we track progress of improvement activities?

Catch 22 – The egoless, present and curious leader

Every successful implementation of Lean or Agile I have seen has an ingredient that is almost a contradiction.

A leader who

  • has low ego (not interested in putting himself first)
  • is present (he/she has active conversations with teams and other leaders such, as change never comes as a complete surprise)
  • is active (he takes part in building up teams, do not defer hard decisions, he notifies and challenges, using questions, when people behave differently from the values agreed)
  • curious (what is the next step, what should we try, let’s do it)

This is a contradiction in terms. But every great leader I have observed have had as their final goal to eventually remove themselves. A scary thought? In fact not so. All these leaders had plenitude of options to choose from for their next position.  And improvement is never done. There is always a next step.


Förbättra från start till mål

I denna video berättar jag om vikten av att se till end-to-end ledtid och att den största förbättringspotentialen hos en organisation med Agila team ofta ligger i  stegen innan utveckling påbörjas.

(for english readers: In this video I tell about the importance of improving end-to-end lead time –  not only think about the development portion of it)

Video from “Improving the full value chain using Lean” @ LKCE 2013


I had the privilege of both attending and speaking at Lean Kanban Central Europe (LKCE) in 2013.  (Awesome conference). In my talk I share insights and techniques useful when improving the full value chain, across functions in a software product organization.

Here’s a video on my talk.

read more »

Learning to communicate requirements, even Agile, the human way

Our human brain is way better interpreting visual information (images) than any other information. Evolution taught us to survive this way. Yet, still today, the most common form to deliver requirements is … text. In the old waterfall days it meant a lot of text, today using Agile slightly less text, but still, text. If we do it well we back it up with a conversation.

Let’s look at an Agile example, using the “As a..” syntax:

“As a buyer, I would like to buy a pair of shorts, so I can go running.”

read more »

Function team vs. feature team – a definition

I got the question “explain the difference between a feature team and a function team”. When I answered, I realized that many people uses the term without attaching an explaining what they mean. So here is how I define it.

read more »

The worlds fastest CI

Viaplay broadcasts TV over the web and to wireless devices. No need to wait for another build.. they have the worlds fastest CI!

Let me share with you how it works!

1. State normal – everything works

We can code along or have another coffee.

2. Big trouble!

Mainline is clearly broken! All hands on deck.

Here it is – live.

Enterprise kanban – improving the full value chain using Lean thinking

What happens when we apply kanban across the full value chain?  What if you are a traditional company, how far can you improve before organizational structures becomes your key constraint? Can you make great products in a multi team scenario without product owners and project managers?

Let me share with you our learning of applying Enterprise kanban in a traditional company.

What we found:

  • We improve time to market by 2x in 1.5 year
  • 95% of shipped product ideas reported value adding
  • We delivered our products without use of Product Owners, Project managers or a Project Office
    (we did however have a marketing function, so another way to put it – it can allow product people to spend more time out with customers)
  • Enterprise kanban, Concepts, collaborative design and facilitation were our main tools

Read the full case study here.

As always, always make sure you use ideas wisely in your context. Never copy, always improve.


Mattias Skarin

Podcast: Improving interactions through the Lean value chain

I just got interviewed by Joseph Dager at Business901 before the upcoming Lean Kanban Central Europe Conference in Hamburg.

You’ll find the podcast here (includes downloadable as mp3 and available through Itunes)

See you in Hamburg!

Slides from Lean & Kanban Netherlands 2013

It’s a busy week! But could not resist beautiful Utrecht region and Lean Kanban Netherlands with focus “Modern management methods”.

Here are my slides from the A3 Workshop, where my goal was to let the participants experience some of the upsides and downsides of using A3 in problem solving knowledge work  (hint: you will need more than A3..). I wanted to elaborate on the complimentary useful tools for complex, fast  paced scenarios (hint: you can do better than “just swarming”) – maybe next time! :)

Slides from Agile Eastern Europe 2013

Met a great crowd in Kiev at Agile Eastern Europe. I’d love to stay longer!

Here are the slides on my presentation on Visualization – what’s my brain got to do with it.