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

January 3, 2015

Two years on

Filed under: Books,Kanban,Values,Work — Tags: , , , , — Mike @ 10:45 am

I deliberately delayed the usual end-of-year review to today, the 3rd of January. It’s the second anniversary of my post Introducing Kanban through its Values and I was curious to see how well it was holding up. It is after all the seed that grew into my personal highlight of 2014, the publication in September of my book Kanban from the Inside.

Although the margin isn’t huge, I am not at all surprised to find that this two year old post tops the list of most-read pages of 2014:

  1. Introducing Kanban through its values
  2. Kanban Values exercise released
  3. My book: Kanban from the Inside
  4. STATIK, Kanban’s hidden gem
  5. Announcing Featureban
  6. “How deep” rebooted: values-based depth assessment
  7. Kanban: values, understanding & purpose
  8. Pulling change through the system
  9. A process of knowledge discovery
  10. Understand motivation for change

#7 is representative of 2013 – a followup to #1 and part of a journey of rapid exploration. The 2014 posts represent the fruit of that earlier work, ideas and tools rounded out and made reusable through the writing of my book. I’m thrilled that others refer to STATIK without my prompting (I declared it a success in July). The values exercise and Featureban are popular on slideshare. Matt Phillip flew across to Europe to describe (among other things) his company’s use of the assessment tool (see his deck The Kanban Iceberg; the video of his London talk should be available soon).

What does 2015 hold? For the next three months at least, more delivery management work with Valtech on UK government digital projects. Some private training classes no doubt, and (fingers crossed) a new 1-day public class “Inside Kanban”, probably in partnership with our growing community of UK-based training providers. I have other irons in the fire, but beyond March I’m still open to offers, whether it’s consultancy, training, or interim management.

In the meantime we’re moving house. A second foster daughter joined our family last year, and a Georgian cottage built into a Derbyshire hillside no longer meets our accessibility requirements. The new house is a bungalow on the edge of Wingerworth – still Derbyshire, but flatter and much closer to motorway and intercity railway links. Can’t wait!

November 25, 2014

Understand motivation for change

Filed under: Kanban — Tags: , , , , , , — Mike @ 2:36 pm

One piece of feedback I’ve received a few times on step 1 of STATIK (and therefore on chapter 18 of my book Kanban from the Inside also) is that “Understand sources of dissatisfaction” sounds rather negative. What about sources of satisfaction, pride, strength, and so on? Are those unimportant?

It’s a very valid comment, and with David at this week’s Train-the-Trainer class in Cascais, Portugal, we renamed this step “Understand motivation for change”. Ironically, this name existed already as the title for the accompanying class exercise!

We made the change to the Foundations deck right there in front of the class. Other decks and my book will be updated as soon as is practically possible.

As it happens, I am very interested in the positive (the naming of my blog is no accident). My favourite retrospective format—a format that would work well in the context of a STATIK workshop—is the Stanford d.school’s “I like / I wish / I wonder” (“IL/IW/IW”) or “I like / wish / What if” (“IL/IW/WI”) which sometimes I abbreviate to “+/-/?”. In one simple exercise, we find out both what we’d like to change, what we’re keen to preserve, and what needs digging into further.

STATIK requires us to do this from two perspectives, internal and external. As my friend Markus Andrezak puts it, we need both self-awareness and empathy. Let’s strike the right balance between the positive and the negative also. It’s not all bad!

Source: Markus Andrezak

October 21, 2014

Book-related roundup

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Mike @ 2:23 pm

In chronological order:

In the background are discussions on translating Kanban from the Inside into other languages. I’ll announce them here as soon as agreements are in place.

I should mention also that Lean Kanban UK 2014 takes place the week after next. My opening keynote is called “Inside Lean Kanban”. An echo, not a plug!

September 30, 2014

Kanban from the Inside is now available on Kindle

Filed under: Books,Kanban — Tags: , , , — Mike @ 3:31 pm

In addition to the existing paperback, my book Kanban from the Inside is now available on Kindle via amazon.comamazon.co.ukamazon.de and amazon.fr and (no doubt) other amazons also. A PDF e-book is also available via the djaa.com store.

In a two-sentence summary: understand the Kanban Method, connect it with familiar models such as Lean, Agile, and Theory of Constraints, and learn how to implement it step-by-step in your organization. Learn practical techniques to apply the Kanban Method, always considering the context of your situation and the people involved.

Read it, then leave a review!

September 4, 2014

Did I mention that I have a book out?

Filed under: Books,Kanban — Tags: , , , , , , — Mike @ 3:57 am

Thrilled that I can move Kanban from the Inside to the “Published” column now! Complete with an awesome foreword by Luke Hohmann, It’s available in paperback on Amazon (I checked .com, .co.uk, .de and .fr) and a Kindle version will be available very soon. Reviews should start to arrive in the next few days.

[Update: As of September 29th the Kindle edition is now available, and a PDF e-book is also available via the djaa.com store.]

It has been quite a long haul, but I don’t regret a minute of it. It all started right here 20 months ago with a humble blog post Introducing Kanban through its values, but that title describes just 9 of the 23 chapters. There’s also all the “models”—Systems Thinking, Lean, Agile, Theory of Constraints and so on—and the implementation approach, STATIK. Serious work on the book started in July last year when I presented an outline to Janice and David; writing took a little less than a year after that, but then there’s all the other stuff…

I should mention that we can handle bulk orders and can produce corporate branded versions with your logo on the cover and your message on an inside page. Enquiries to sales@djaa.com. You can enquire after my own availability there also. In the immediate term given current workload, single days in the UK or an evening’s hop away.

August 8, 2014

Servant Leadership #quote

Filed under: Books,leadership,Values — Tags: , , — Mike @ 8:05 am

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)

July 24, 2014

Declaring STATIK a success

Filed under: Books,Kanban,Training — Tags: , , — Mike @ 8:43 am

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.

August 5, 2013

Economy and survival

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Mike @ 2:00 pm

Via Willam Zinsser’s On Writing Well (a real gem):

Economy and survival are the two key words in nature. Examined out of context, the neck of the giraffe seems uneconomically long, but it is economical in view of the fact that most of the giraffe’s food is high in the tree. Beauty as we understand it, and as we admire it in nature, is never arbitrary.
Moshe Safdie, Beyond Habitat

December 27, 2012

My 2012 in books

I’ll get to my book of the year in a moment, but I begin with the two books that have had the most direct influence on my work in 2012.

The first is Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership by John Whitmore (2009). I’ve been using the GROW model described in this book not just as a coaching tool but as a gateway to A3, really appreciating its teachability, memorability and its reminders of the importance of framing and challenge.

Like the first, the second is new to me but not a new book. From Lean Software Strategies: Proven Techniques for Managers and Developers by Peter Middleton & James Sutton (2005) I have taken away a much stronger appreciation of the word customer, and I find myself repeating its advice often.

My book of 2012

I choose Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character not because it’s still fresh in my mind but because it’s a book that I hope will be read widely. Readable, thought-provoking and inspirational, it’s a book for anyone with an interest in the relationships between environment, learning, character and life prospects. That should be most of us.

For the benefit of UK readers I should mention that I had to import it from the US but it will be available here in paperback next month.

Honourable mentions

I approached How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business (2010) with some caution, the title preparing me for a book that might be overly analytical and worryingly money-centric. Instead, it’s a broad, insightful and practical book about making decisions and managing risk in the presence of uncertainty. I’m delighted that the author Douglas W Hubbard will be a keynote speaker at the 2013 Lean Kanban North America (#lkna13) conference.

Turning to fiction, I’m grateful to Dave Snowden for introducing me to anthropology-cum-science-fiction author Ursula le Guin.  Since reading The Dispossessed (1974) in preparation for the CALMalpha event I’ve enjoyed a number of her books, sharing some written for younger readers with our foster daughter.  This one remains my favourite though – I was genuinely disappointed that it had to come to an end! As a sci-fi fan, how did I not encounter le Guin previously?

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman was for many reviewers a best book of 2011 and I got round to it in 2012.  Well worth the effort.

The surprise package

I carried around a review copy of Agile Project Management for Government: Leadership skills for implementation of large-scale public sector projects in months, not years in my suitcase for several weeks and was more than a little surprised and humbled to discover my name listed in the acknowledgements! It’s not an easy topic topic, but author and fellow Agile North speaker Brian Wernham has done a good job of drawing out valuable lessons from reference projects around the world and calling out the kind of leadership necessary for project delivery in the public sector to improve.

Since first meeting Brian I have myself joined a large public sector programme so the arrival of this book turned out to be very timely. I should get round to a longer review in the New Year.

Next up

Top of my list for next year (already purchased and downloaded onto my Kindle) is The Culture Game: Tools for the Agile Manager (2012) by Daniel Mezick. Do you confront culture and mindset head-on, or regard them as something emergent? That has been a favourite conversation topic on Twitter and in conference bars and I’m really looking forward to reading Dan’s take on this.

November 10, 2011

Lean reading marathon

Filed under: Books,Kanban,leadership,lean — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Mike @ 12:07 pm

I have just finished reading these five books in quick succession:


The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management
: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century by Stephen Denning


The New Economics
for Industry, Government, Education by W Edwards Deming


Toyota Production System
: Beyond Large-scale Production by Taiichi Ohno


Toyota Kata
: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results by Mike Rother


The Lean Startup
: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Denning book has a very interesting take on old and new models of business leadership, with lessons that business can draw from the Agile and Lean development communities.  A good and interesting read but a couple of nits to pick:
1) Scrum receives special attention but without any real analysis of why (or why not)
2) With 70+ recommendations it was easy to lose track of the underlying principles

I would have left Steve Denning there, but he came to LESS 2011 in Stockholm this month, giving an excellent keynote and holding a Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) session on leadership storytelling. I was greatly impressed by both, two of the best sessions of the whole conference. His book The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative is now on my reading wishlist.

I approached Deming and Ohno together as an exercise in going back to original sources – both books must surely be required reading for anyone interested in Lean, even if only as historical reference points.  I was however very struck by the timeliness of the Deming book nearly 20 years after publication and appreciated his warnings against the dangers of “tampering” (a word he uses with some precision) with systems that are prone to random variation.  The Ohno book gave great insight into the origins, influences and historical context of the Toyota Production System, and most especially the exceptional determination and clarity of vision with which Ohno and his mentors applied themselves.  My lasting impressions from this pair of books aren’t so much technical but the feeling that I have encountered some remarkable people.

Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata is my book of the year. I could only read it slowly, finding myself at regular intervals putting the book down to think!  It fills a big gap in Lean literature, explaining the Toyota Production System not as something fixed but as the result of decades of ongoing work, that work being the expression of a uniquely self-sustaining and self-renewing approach to management and leadership.  I wonder if there is an organisation outside the armed services that does this quite so systematically and thoughtfully?  There are lessons we can take away on making transformations endure, but still must be admitted that not many organisations have Toyota’s staying power. That’s a humbling thought.

Taking Ohno and Rother together, it seems clear that Toyota’s approach to improvement relies less on good tools or the employee suggestion box but rather on working towards process goals which would seem well beyond the reach of most other companies.  It is no wonder others struggle to keep up!  Continuous improvement seems such an easy thing, but it is no easy option when you are led with focus and determination, guided by a “True North” to which few would dare aspire.

Last but not least, Eric Ries’s Lean Startup book.  My expectations were driven downwards by the Twitter hype surrounding this book, but I was wrong to be so cautious!  There is real depth here, surprising insights right to the last chapter.  In particular, the “validated learning” concept seems set to be regarded as one of those oh-so-simple but elegant and language-changing ideas. It resolves so many of those frustrating loose ends that get argued about endlessly in Agile and Lean circles, such as the “why” of development work, the meaning of “done” and the appropriateness of metrics.  Now we have new and powerful ways to talk about the values, economics and direction of Lean development that sit very well with Kanban.

So, quite a marathon, but what a great investment!

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