Positive Incline Mike Burrows (@asplake) moving on up, positively

October 15, 2013

Kanban’s Organisational Design Principles?

Filed under: Kanban,leadership,Uncategorized,Values — Tags: , , — Mike @ 6:06 pm

Give or take a word or two, the Kanban method’s Foundational Principles have looked like this for a couple of years now:

  • Start with what you do now
  • Agree to pursue evolutionary change
  • Initially, respect existing roles, responsibilities and job titles
  • Encourage acts of leadership at every level – from individual contributor to senior manager

Does that last one really belong in that list? Much as I like the principle, I wonder. In the language of values, understandingagreement & respect (leadership disciplines, the environment and working agreements around the process and conduct of evolutionary change) then leadership (which tends to go hand in hand with change of any kind; we encourage an at-every-level variety).

Let’s try for size this new list (a list of concepts, not a serious attempt at canonical wording):

  • Service-orientation, by which customers have their needs met through single services or multiple coordinated services
  • Decentralised control and self-organisation, improving adaptability and responsiveness, easing reconfiguration both between and within services
  • Leadership, sustaining the system and change therein

These aren’t quite so foundational to the Kanban method, but are the kinds of organisational design principles that successful Kanban implementations seem to follow.

Would this change my values model? Not really. Leadership stays because it must. Self-organisation is a significant theme when I explain transparency; decentralised control slots fits both there and with leadership. Service-orientation fits with flow just as comfortably.

We’d be left with this:

  1. The foundational principles returned to their original three
  2. The six core practices as they currently are
  3. Three organisational design principles

We like?


  1. That all depends how you see Kanban. If it’s ‘only’ an approach to evolutionary process improvement, a method for catalyzing changes in processes, whatever the goal, then the FP and CP are just fine.

    If you broaden the perspective and see it as a way of creating a method in order to improve capability _to meet a purpose_, then it’s certainly worthwhile to add those 3 DP.

    But is implies somehow that Customers are central to the purpose, which is just Lean in spirit. I’m fine with that, but that is not obvious for many businesses (c.f. David Joyce present focus). But in Lean Kanban, there’s Lean, so…

    Comment by Thomas Lissajoux — October 16, 2013 @ 10:07 am

  2. Hi Thomas, very well put!

    I include customer focus as a value for exactly these reasons. You can go back to the original “Introducing Kanban through its values” or one of my more provocative posts of recent weeks “Is this Agile’s Achilles’ heel?” to get some of my thinking on that.

    Comment by Mike — October 17, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

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