Book-related roundup

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!

Kanban from the Inside is now available on Kindle

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!

A process of knowledge discovery

Creative knowledge work is a process of knowledge discovery. You might say that this statement goes a long way to define creative knowledge work and let the rest be left the imagination, but there is still plenty to be said about the process of knowledge discovery.

In Kanban from the Inside I make 16 mentions of “knowledge discovery” – clearly it’s an important term! They are concentrated in these chapters:

  • 4. Customer Focus, about the value
  • 10. Patterns and Agendas, which introduces the Kanban Lens
  • 20., 22., and 23., which take us through the STATIK implementation steps Model the Workflow (aka Model the Knowledge Discovery Process), Design Kanban Systems, and Rollout respectively

The presence here of the customer focus value is a clue that I leave precise technical definitions to others. Instead, I describe the coming together of attitude and actual practice, which (in general) values encapsulate superbly. My conclusions could be summarised as follows:

  • Aim not merely to take orders or to satisfy requirements, but instead to anticipate and meet needs at the right time
  • Be humble about how little you really know; proceed accordingly
  • Be humble about how inadequately your process uncovers needs; help it to adapt
  • Even after delivery, expect to learn more about how needs are being met; validate!

In short—and with apologies to Stephen Covey—begin humbly with the undiscovered need in mind.

I use the word “humbling” every time I retell the story of my first introduction of an explicit post-delivery validation step. Tired of seeing my teams deliver against unneeded requirements, I insisted on it out of pure frustration and with a “that will teach them” kind of negativity, aimed mainly but not exclusively at our customers. The effect on the whole process was however nothing short of profound; the end result being real collaboration at every stage of the process!

Nowadays, and with the advent of the likes of Lean Startup and Lean UX in which validation is formalized, we know that a commitment to validation is a highly repeatable way to catalyze a shift from requirements-driven to hypothesis-driven development. The Kanban Method doesn’t make this commitment explicit, but it is a widely recognized practice fully in keeping with the customer focus value and the core practices of “Manage flow” and “Implement feedback loops”. And for me personally, there’s no going back.

 

Did I mention that I have a book out?

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.

Announcing Featureban

I have two speaking engagements in September, a Lean conference in Belfast organised by the regional development agency Invest Northern Ireland titled “Driving Competitiveness through Continuous Improvement” on the 9th, and a return to Lean Agile Scotland in Edinburgh on the 11th and 12th. At both events I have extended workshop sessions which allow me to give what will be the third and fourth outings to a new Kanban simulation game, Featureban (I launched it at this year’s Kanban Leadership Retreat and used it again with minor modifications at a recent Train-the-Trainer).

Featureban is a fun way for small groups to try out some basic visual management (visualisation + feedback loops), and then experience the dramatic effect of adding work-in-progress limits to create working kanban systems. It’s also possible to add in metrics (there are instructions included for that already) or to connect multiple systems together (sorry, you’re on your own there). It should be easy to add other elements too; I would recommend that you introduce those in later rounds of the game.

For the second round, a WIP limit of 3 works well for teams of 5-6. If there are 4 or more items in the third column you could increase the limit for larger teams, but I wouldn’t go higher than 4. Use your judgement, and of course the same applies to smaller teams (set the limit too low, and blockers will dominate).

When time is limited, turn the metrics round into an exercise of the imagination. Have some outputs pre-prepared.

blah

30 sheets of 300gsm A3, pens and stickies

In terms of materials, it requires a simple four-column board and a good supply of suitably-sized sticky notes. I’m taking with me to Belfast and Edinburgh some boards ready-printed on A3 card (but a hand-drawn flipchart works fine too) and some small (51mm x 38mm) sticky notes. For the first ever run, we huddled around a sheet of A4 paper in the retreat’s lounge, and the rules evolved as we played. Cozy!

In the Edinburgh session on STATIK especially, we will even use Featureban to illustrate the change process in action. It’s all part of my preparations for a new 1-day exec-level class that gives exposure to everything I have come to regard as “first class” elements of the Kanban Method (principles, practices, values, agendas, the Kanban lens, STATIK, etc) . If your organisation is based in or within easy reach of the UK and would like to host an early version of such a class, drop me a line. (No, I’m not ready to schedule public classes just yet, and when I do, it may be in partnership with other LKU members.)

Following the very positive feedback I received on releasing the Kanban Values Exercise under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, I’m doing the same with Featureban, with the PDFs downloadable here.

Ping me at mike@djaa.com if you’d like to get hold of the original PowerPoint files. The same license applies to these files too but it’s really nice when people let me know what they’re doing with them. For example, I know that Ruben Olsen (@RubenOlsen) is already working a Norwegian translation.

Thanks to Ruben and to Jose Casal (@jose_casal) for their feedback on previous iterations.

Declaring STATIK a success

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.

“How deep” rebooted: values-based depth assessment

[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:

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:

2014-06-03 12.44.06

(I should explain that “Leadership & the Leadership Disciplines” pragmatically lumps together leadershipunderstandingagreement, 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:

  1. Our system exhibits this aspect barely, if at all
  2. Our system is somewhat capable of exhibiting this aspect
  3. Our system exhibits this aspect convincingly, for the most part
  4. 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.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 15.05.42

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 15.07.24

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.

Pulling change through the system

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”:

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.

Jeff Anderson‘s book The Lean Change Method includes this very nice design:

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)?

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!