The sixth in a roughly weekly series of excerpts from my book, Kanban from the Inside. Chapter 6 on leadership is pivotal – it brings together the preceding five values and the three still to come.
What if [Kanban’s at every level] kind of leadership doesn’t come naturally to your organization?
Fortunately, Kanban doesn’t leave you to solve this problem on your own. When change is stimulated, it creates leadership opportunities both large and small. The more widespread, repeatable, and visible this process is, the more positive its impact on your organization’s culture will be.
Let’s test that. Where can we find these leadership opportunities?
- Transparency: In knowledge work, things don’t make themselves visible or explicit by themselves; leaders choose to make them so. This is as true in the small details—the wording of a policy, for example—as it is in the bigger things, such as institutional feedback loops.
- Balance: Where are we overloaded, and why? Are our pain points obvious, or does the volume of work hide them? Is the mix of work right? There is leadership opportunity in asking these questions as well as in the decisions that may follow.
- Collaboration: Making an introduction, reaching out, sharing a problem, noticing how people interact—all of these can be acts of leadership.
- Customer focus: It takes leadership to acknowledge that the process may be ineffective at discovering and meeting real customer needs.
- Flow: Are you seeing it? What is stuck today? Where do blockages repeatedly occur? Why is that? These are everyday questions of leadership.
- Leadership: Encouraging leadership in others can demand real leadership on the part of the encourager. Kanban’s kind of leadership not only spreads, it reinforces itself.
What conditions are needed if that kind of leadership is to thrive? The next three chapters cover the remaining three values, namely the leadership disciplines of understanding, agreement, and respect. These get to the heart of the Kanban Method’s approach to change.