Leaders are those who are followed or emulated because they possess the ability, experience, or knowledge necessary for achieving the objective that is pursued, valued or required by others. Thus a leader is in a position of serving others by providing the guidance and direction necessary for a particular outcome or result.
Dallas Willard and Gary Black Jr
The Divine Conspiracy Continued (HarperOne, 2014)
Back in March, I published STATIK, Kanban’s hidden gem, giving the acronym STATIK to the relatively unnoticed “Systems Thinking Approach To Introducing Kanban”. So began my campaign to make it (the approach, not just the name) a first-class citizen in the Kanban landscape.
The more we use it, the more we find that it resonates, and the more opportunity we have to articulate with our clients its usefulness not only to new implementations, but to existing ones that need a bit of a refresh. In recognition of that, I’ve just blogged on djaa.com site the article Reinvigorating an existing Kanban implementation with STATIK.
As for first-class citizenship, it has recently been incorporated into the LKU curriculum at every level from Foundation upwards. Its component parts were always there, but we didn’t mandate a description of the process as a whole.
Finally, a reminder that Kanban from the Inside comes out in September. Part III will contain the most in-depth description of STATIK available anywhere.
[Update: do read this post in conjunction with the previous one—Pulling change through the system—I don't make it clear enough here that the purpose of the assessment is to help generate priorities for change]
It’s fair to say that I have a complicated relationship with the Kanban Depth Assessment tool. With some excitement, I tweeted this picture from the 2102 Kanban Leadership retreat:
— Mike Burrows (@asplake) June 22, 2012
A few months after that tweet, I blogged How Deep is “How Deep is Your Kanban”?. Fortunately, I was able to channel my frustrations into something positive, and the eventual result was Introducing Kanban Through its Values.
Meanwhile, I find the tool useful in practice, even if flawed. That’s awkward!
Two years on from the Mayrhofen retreat we’re in Cascais, Portugal for this year’s retreat (#klrpt), and I have the opportunity to test a values-based realisation of our original idea, which I drafted only last week for the final chapter of my book (yay!).
Focusing on outcomes more than benefits, I asked participants to identify and categorise aspects or features of systems they would expect to see in mature Kanban implementations. This picture shows just a small selection:
(I should explain that “Leadership & the Leadership Disciplines” pragmatically lumps together leadership, understanding, agreement, and respect. I was actually rather gratified that Pawel Brodzinski expressed the concern that I didn’t give them sufficient individual prominence.)
Now for the measurement part. Sebastian Sanitz presented the Agile Fluency Model (Diana Larsen and James Shore), which uses a simple four-point measurement scale; Sebastian used the metaphor of learning a new language to explain what the different points on the scale feel like.
Since this morning’s workshop I have replaced my prototype’s ten-point scale with this more well-defined four point scale:
- Our system exhibits this aspect barely, if at all
- Our system is somewhat capable of exhibiting this aspect
- Our system exhibits this aspect convincingly, for the most part
- Our system departs from this only very exceptionally, understanding and managing the consequence when it does
These are applied per aspect; there are typically half a dozen or so of these per value category. I aggregate results within each category using a geometric mean (compared with a simple arithmetic mean, this gives more weight to lower/weaker scores, ie the aspects likely to be in most need of attention).
You can download the spreadsheet here: values-based depth assessment.xlsx. Some screenshots of the assessment worksheet and the radar chart visualisation are shown below. For the book, I will incorporate a time-based view from Ruben Olsen.
I honestly believe this to be an improvement on the old tool, but I know that there will be those that would still prefer to see it based on a checklist of low-level practices. I’m afraid to say that you’re unlikely to get that from me! Still, I’d be grateful for feedback, soon enough that I can accommodate it before the book’s publication (September, fingers crossed). If it takes additional work to separate the tool from the book—context matters, after all—that’s fine.
I’m busy finishing the very last chapter of Kanban from the Inside. It’s about the last step of the STATIK implementation process, namely rollout. I treat rollout as a long-running, open-ended process that is very amenable to visual management. In fact, it seems to be hard to find a significant Kanban implementation these days that doesn’t maintain some kind of visual management system in parallel with the main delivery system, devoted to change, problems, out-of-the-ordinary dependencies and so on.
With Kevin Murray of Valtech, I’ve had success with variants of what we call the “Problem Board”:
Anyone can add new problems to the input column on the left. After triage and ownership assignment, in-progress problems move vertically between the daily and weekly areas according to the amount of time we wished to devote to discussing them. Once “Sorted”, problems are “Closed” once we are sure that they aren’t going to resurface, decisions have been logged, and so on.
The board we’re using right now board is similar, except that we have conventional swim-lanes that span the board horizontally, each for a defined work stream. Unfortunately this means losing the daily/weekly split, but with a complex delivery to manage, it is more important that we’re able to organise problems this way.
Clearly, it is very much about change management. It emphasises two things that are important to me: agreement (one of the nine values), and validation (which I describe in the chapter on customer focus). Separating qualitative validation from quantitative verification seems very smart too; typically teams will be happy to confirm behaviour changes long before it is possible to confirm any significant performance improvement.
Next week I’m at the Kanban Leadership Retreat in Cascais, Portugal. I would be very pleased to discuss STATIK and compare change management kanban systems there. General purpose (like mine), or change specific (like Jeff’s)?
As far as I can tell from my extensive research (two Google searches), I’m the first person to notice that the “Systems Thinking Approach To Introducing Kanban” could go by a nice acronym, STATIK.
Not heard of it? You’re probably not alone. It’s not widely regarded as a first-class component of the Kanban Method, but maybe (and I’m expressing just a personal opinion here), we could change that.
You may recognize the steps:
- Understand sources of dissatisfaction
- Analyze demand and capability
- Model the knowledge discovery process
- Discover classes of service
- Design kanban systems
- Roll out
Our training has included these elements for a long time and we now expect each of them to be taught in accredited training (except perhaps step 6, which is beyond the scope of Foundation level training). If STATIK has a short name already, it’s “Day 2″!
if that doesn’t explain its familiarity, perhaps you’re reminded of the equivalent steps in Lean:
- Identify value from the customer’s standpoint
- Map the value stream
- Create flow
- Establish pull
- Identify and eliminate waste
In both formulations there’s an implied “rinse & repeat”. They’re not exactly equivalent (STATIK is by design more specific to creative knowledge work) but the parallels are clear.
I’ve been doing a lot with STATIK in the past year and a bit. It’s the focus of Part III of my book; in my interactive workshop at LKNA14 we will explore the combination of STATIK, values, and serious games (I’ve been working with Luke Hohmann on key elements of this); and of course I’ve been teaching, coaching, and consulting. And it changes things!
So to the real point of this post: I’m learning to be a little skeptical when I hear of changes driven from the board – “improvements” to layout, policies or WIP limits designed to drive changes in behaviour. I’d much rather hear that discussion of customer dissatisfactions or team frustrations is provoking discussion on how system changes might achieve one or more of these three things:
- make the impact of these issues more visible
- bring suspected root causes closer to the surface
- start in some testable way to address these issues
Changes to kanban systems then follow, as necessary.
I hope we’re agreed that change should be implemented with understanding, agreement, and respect (the three values I call leadership disciplines). STATIK is a highly actionable implementation of that guiding principle. I commend it!
It should come as no surprise that the Lean Kanban North America 2014 (#lkna14) conference has a Kanban track. What you might not know is that I’m its chair. I’m taking the opportunity here to say a bit about what we have in store:
Talk 1 is from me. I will answer three questions about the Kanban Method:
- How does Kanban help self-organizing teams make better decisions?
- How does Kanban help improve service delivery so that we can anticipate customer needs more effectively?
- What does Kanban have to say about organization and culture?
That should set up the other four talks nicely:
- Eric Green tackles Kanban practices and team-level sustainability via a remarkable true story (about which I don’t want to say too much right now – you’ll have to hear it for yourself)
- Russell Healy, well known as the creator of the awesome getkanban game, shares with me an interest in the “Inner Game” (I book I often recommend, John Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance, is from the Inner Game camp). Russell will be speaking on the “Inner Game of Kanban”. I can’t wait.
- Another pillar of the Kanban community, Yuval Yeret, joins us as co-speaker with Yaki Koren, Limor Saden, and Keren Yahalom of Amdocs for “Amdocs SBG: Moving Thousands of People to Kanban within 16 Months”. Their case study is all about scale: large-scale change and service delivery at scale.
- For the last talk of the track I have reached out to Frode Odegard. I expect Frode to challenge us to think harder about how Leadership at every level actually happens. His talk is called “Leadership as a Design Problem”.
In parallel with my Kanban track we have Beyond Budgeting and Evolving Product Management tracks; then Lean Applied, Managing Risk and Lean Startup the following day. These two “track days” are book-ended by two days of interactive workshops, each with its own program of keynotes and other plenary sessions. I’ll be leading a workshop called “Shaping the Agenda with Values and Serious Games” (more on that soon).
This all takes place May 5-8, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency, Embarcadero, San Francisco. Be there!
Over the past few weeks InfoQ has published a series of three articles I’ve written on Kanban’s agendas. Older articles don’t link to newer articles so I list them here in order:
Some thanks are overdue. Luke Hohmann (who saw a very early draft) and Ben Linders (InfoQ editor) weren’t just encouraging (which they were), they rightly insisted that I had some work to do. Quite a bit of work as it turned out, but for their thoughtful and at times robust comment I’m very grateful.
Next week I’m speaking at Agile India 2014 in Bangalore, on the Scaling Agile Adoption Track (day 1, Wednesday afternoon). Values and agendas might just get a mention! Here, Ellen Grove deserves a thank you for requiring me to address the challenges of scale more directly.
Working in parallel on talks, short posts, longer articles and the book really works for me. The trick now must be to finish the book before I find yet another avenue to explore!
[Cross-posted from edu.leankanban.com]
I’ve added an exercise on Kanban’s values to the foundational and advanced practitioner training decks. This has become a fixture even at train-the-trainer events and I ran it twice(!) at the recent Kanban Leadership Retreat in Monterey.
From the perspective of a Kanban trainer there are some obvious things to like about it:
- It’s a gentle reminder of the foundational principles and core practices of the Kanban Method
- It generates lots of high quality discussion (no group has yet got as far as the visual representation part at the end)
- It prompts thoughtful reflection
Less obviously, I am integrating it into my teaching of the systems thinking approach to introducing Kanban (see David’s LSSC12 talk if you don’t know what this is). Part of the power of values is that they can represent both benefits and practices; this means that we can use them to connect the rollout approach (the last step of the process) to the needs of the organization (captured in the first step).
By popular demand we are releasing it separately under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license. You can download the PDF from Slideshare, and I will provide the pptx on request (drop me an email).
Tips to the facilitator:
- This is best done on paper (don’t hand out the later slides that have the model answers)
- Complete and check the principles before attempting the practices
- Do the principles in reverse order (it’s just easier that way) and cross off the answers you have used
- There are no trick questions (“We aren’t evil!”) – if there seems to be an obvious correspondence of words, it’s safe to go with it
- Groups of 5-8 people if possible; multiple groups can report back afterwards
- Allow 45 minutes. It’s possible to do it quicker than that but groups do seem to appreciate the time to think and discuss.
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s already 2014! A few quick updates:
By a country mile, my most popular post of 2013 was this one:
I would have chosen that one myself, so I’m pleased! Nice to see the perennial favourites (Kanban in a nutshell and Learning together: Kanban and the Twelve Principles of Agile Software) knocked off the top.
Completing the list of top 5 posts of 2013 are these:
- Kanban: values, understanding & purpose
- One method, three agendas
- How complex systems fail
- Making a case for “leadership disciplines”
And my “editor’s picks”:
- Is this Agile’s Achilles’ heel?, which in the interests of positivity should be followed right away with Stand up meeting, thinking tool, leadership routine
- Small acts of leadership
- Anticipating needs ahead of time
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!