I’ve been nominated for the Brickell Key Award! I’m tremendously excited about this. The award highlights excellence with Kanban, honoring people who have shown outstanding achievement, leadership, and contribution to the Kanban community. I’m also rather stunned.
I don’t think of myself as having shown outstanding leadership or achievement. I really value Kanban though, and I talk about it almost everywhere I go, so maybe there’s something to it.
What I appreciate most about Kanban is that it is a deliberate attempt to create a shared cognitive framework, a shared view of what we are doing. This makes it much easier to work together, cooperate, and collaborate towards a common end. I’ve seen it with the teams I work with, and I’ve also seen it in my own home.
We hear a great deal about the importance of culture and how Agile and Lean require a specific cultural mindset. In most organizations this requires cultural change. I have to agree with this. Although my work is generally considered “process improvement” a vast majority of my efforts focus on improving how teams work together and relate to each other; this improves their culture, or at least changes their perception of it. In many cases, my work would better be described as “cultural change” rather than “process change;” the two go hand in hand.
The wonderful thing about Kanban is that it gives us a tool to work on culture directly, without ever mentioning the concept. By providing a shared frame of reference, a Kanban creates a new cognitive framework. This can overcome existing biases and assumptions and help bring a team together. It’s a powerful constraint that can trigger changes in the way people work and relate to each other. Seeing a team move from infighting and division to collaborative self-organization in this way is a wonderful thing.
And it is disheartening to see it abused. A Kanban can be a wonderful tool, but it can also be a powerful mechanism for division and control. I’ve seen managers construct Kanban systems that enhanced their power and disenfranchised subordinates. It’s rare, but it can happen.
This hasn’t reduced my enthusiasm for it though. And I’m excited to share what I’ve learned and collaborate with others at Lean Kanban North America 2015 in June. I’m also excited that I might be honored with the Brickell Key Award.
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