STATIK, Kanban’s hidden gem

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:

  1. Understand sources of dissatisfaction
  2. Analyze demand and capability
  3. Model the knowledge discovery process
  4. Discover classes of service
  5. Design kanban systems
  6. 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:

  1. Identify value from the customer’s standpoint
  2. Map the value stream
  3. Create flow
  4. Establish pull
  5. 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!

The Kanban track at #lkna14

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:

  1. How does Kanban help self-organizing teams make better decisions?
  2. How does Kanban help improve service delivery so that we can anticipate customer needs more effectively?
  3. 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!

My InfoQ series on Kanban’s agendas, Agile India 2014, and some overdue thanks

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:

  1. The sustainability agenda
  2. The service orientation agenda
  3. The survivability agenda

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!

Kanban Values Exercise released

[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.

Top posts of 2013

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:

And my “editor’s picks”:

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!
Mike

Kanban’s agendas on video, renamed

Over the weekend between the LKUK13 and LKCE13 conferences I reworked the three agendas into my “Kanban through its values” talk. It’s now available on video (below).

NB: As described here by David, we’ve since renamed them – they’re now the sustainabilityservice orientation, and survivability agendas. I align them to the values as follows:

  • The sustainability agenda builds on the values transparency, balance, and collaboration. It describes a common approach to Kanban adoption at the level of individuals and teams, often motivated by the need for relief from unsustainable practices and workloads.
  • The service orientation agenda brings together the values customer focus, flow, and leadership. Building on the sustainability agenda, the service orientation agenda describes a more outward-looking approach to change.
  • The survivability agenda is the most overtly cultural agenda of the three, and the most ambitious. Its values understanding, agreement, and respect represent commitments and disciplines that support organizational survival strategies based on adaptability.

Watch out for a series of articles on InfoQ expanding on these. The first instalment should be out in early January.

One method, three agendas

Working in the US last week with David on some updates to the Kanban curriculum, it struck me soon after writing my last post (where I was thinking out loud) that the Kanban Method speaks to multiple agendas:

  1. The continuous improvement agenda – kanban systems feeding the process of ongoing improvement[1], providing grist to the mills of Agile retrospectives, Lean improvement routines, collaborative PDCA and so on
  2. The service delivery agenda – using service orientation as a lens[2] on process and organisation, being clear about what we deliver, to whom and why, understanding and deepening the knowledge discovery process[3], catalysing collaborative, customer-focused delivery at scale
  3. The humane, start with what you do now agenda – the Kanban Method’s very distinctive, values-centric approach to leadership and organisational change

(Forgive me for presenting these in this inside-to-outside order – it aligns to my talk[4])

Many people both inside and outside the Kanban community find it easy to identify with that first agenda. For better and for worse, it integrates very comfortably with other frameworks, the “better” part being that it helps (a lot), the “worse” part being the limits imposed on Kanban’s reach by attachment to existing models.

I’ve majored all year on that last agenda; from my initial post in early January, explaining Kanban as a system of values has been very fruitful. Invoking Bruce Lee (yes, that Bruce Lee) with “be like water” and “no method is method”, David elevates Kanban’s approach to change to a philosophy.

But neither agenda adequately reflects the impact that Kanban can have from the moment it is introduced. It’s a paradox often observed: how is it that the start with what you do now method so often heralds such immediate change?

Perhaps we’ve invested too much in explaining how Kanban works and too little in describing its effects. We must allow the possibility that some familiar messages that continue to resonate strongly with those that deeply understand Kanban may do little for those that don’t.

The service delivery agenda is distinctive enough (actually quite radical in many organisational contexts) and gets quickly to the immediate benefits. We know from teaching to this agenda that it resonates. Yes, change management and leadership are necessary to bring it about and continuous improvement will sustain it, but those messages can come later.



[1] Or POOGI, the improvement cycle of the Theory of Constraints

[2] See David’s post The Kanban Lens and the kanbandev discussion

[4] Don’t forget LKUK13 (London) next week and LKCE13 (Hamburg) the week after!

Kanban’s Organisational Design Principles?

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?

New “onions” picture for #LKUK13

The “word art” of my original Kanban is like onions post proved to be a bit unmanageable and I’ve been experimenting with various layouts. At LKUK13 (just three weeks away!) I’ll debut this latest iteration:

Kanban layers

In due course I’ll make it clickable, linked through to the relevant pages on meldstrong.

The talk describes Kanban as “the humane, start with what you do now approach to change”. It gets refined with each delivery, usually by deleting slides. I’m trying to spend less time on the detail to make more time for reflection; each layer suggesting its own way of looking at organisational context.

Removing the clutter has helped me see a couple of things more clearly:

  1. There’s a virtuous circle between transparency (the value) and self-organisation (the organisational design principle). New ways of looking at things suggest new ways of working, and vice versa.
  2. Kanban’s evolutionary change can be explained as iterating on agreement. As ever, the related disciplines of understanding and respect keep things safe.

More of that in London. Hope to see you there!