Wednesday, February 29, 2012

18 Firms Join Together to put Standards into Kanban Training

I’ve been on vacation this past week skiing with my children. Some very rare quality time with my family. I managed to stay offline almost all week and I was absent for what I believe is a remarkable business achievement. 18 firms joined together to form the Lean Kanban University Accredited Kanban Training program.

Many Kanban community members may have noticed a strange anomaly in the force two weeks ago as the center of gravity in the Kanban universe moved to the Hilton Royal Parc hotel in Soestduinen in Netherlands for 3 days. There 14 of the 18 founding companies came together, 20 people in total, to ratify the governing charter of the new program. I believe that the launch of a new standard with so many participating businesses and from 10 countries and 3 continents is really unprecedented in the software engineering or project management process space in the last 3 or 4 decades. With a really diverse set of opinions, it is amazing that we managed to come to an agreement and keep all 18 companies on-board for the launch.


The Lean Kanban University web site has been around since spring 2011. It is a joint venture company owned by Alan Shalloway’s Net Objectives and my own firm. It started as a simple portal to good quality Kanban content and as an event listing site for firms listing Lean and Kanban training. In this sense, it was providing similar functionality to Agile University or Agile Sherpa but focused specifically on the Lean Software Development and Kanban markets.

During our 2-day open space Kanban Leadership Retreat event in Iceland in June last year, it became evident that providers of good quality Kanban training were becoming concerned with how to address the needs of an expanding market. These clients were from bigger corporates and behaved like early majority market players, looking for signals of maturity such as standards and quality assurance as well as a way of tracking accomplishment and status within the field of Kanban. At the same time other our success in growing adoption of Kanban was enticing new players into the market offering Kanban training and other materials. Often we’d never heard of these people. They took no involvement in the community and they appeared to be fairly ignorant of concepts that we consider basic, fundamental or foundational to Kanban. There was a new and growing need to establish some quality assurance and standards in the market and to differentiate genuinely good Kanban training and trainers and firms who are committed to developing the Kanban community as a service to a wider market from those who were simply in it to make a quick buck from customers incapable of discerning quality and capability. In this sense I’m talking about corporate purchasing departments and human resource training officers asked to “get Kanban training” and looking to pay the lowest possible price.

So the roots of the new accredited Kanban training program began in Reykjavik, Iceland in June.


Throughout the fall Mike Burrows and Dan Vacanti worked to bring the program together and invites went out attendees at Reykjavik and other business partners. 16 firms joined Net Objectives and David J. Anderson & Associates as charter members and proceeded to work on the governing charter.

12th to 14th February representatives of these firms met to ratify the charter and agree the governing structure of the program. The main power lies with the Advisory Board of 18 firms to be augmented later with 2 more non-charter members that will be elected from the 2nd round of joining firms. The charter lays out the rules for membership of the program and puts some controls around curriculum, accreditation of training materials, accreditation of new trainers, and the criteria for new joining member companies. The charter is available for review by any firm that makes a genuine application to join to the program. The program is open to new member firms and if you are currently offering Kanban training, we would encourage you to apply to join.

Mike Burrows has worked with the charter members to agree a standard curriculum for 2-day training in the Kanban Method

What next?

Janice Linden-Reed is now working hard to update the web site and provide the functionality we need to move the program forward. This will take some time. We anticipate incremental updates to the site over the next few months. The Advisory Board plan to meet again at the Lean Software & Systems Conference in Boston in May and at the Kanban Leadership Retreat in Austria in June. Expect further announcements at that time.

Meanwhile, training materials from many of the member firms are now being accredited against the standard curriculum and those members are beginning to advertise accredited training classes. In order for a class to be accredited by LKU, it must be given by a member firm in good standing, by an accredited trainer and using an accredited training class with materials that have been certified to meet the requirements of the standard curriculum. We intend to post the curriculum publicly. As updates to the web site are happening as fast as we can make them, it is likely that the curriculum will not be publicly available until the Boston conference in May.

What does this make Lean Kanban University now?

At one level LKU is a standards body. At this time is has defined only one standard, the curriculum for a 2-day class in the Kanban method. We may choose to create additional programs and define additional standards in future. We have loosely discussed standards for Kanban tracking software and standards for games and simulations as well as standards for metrics and an agreed dictionary or glossary of terms. All of these things may help improve quality in communicating and using Kanban. They may also provide additional signals that more conservative mainstream market adopters are looking for. Standards provide reassurance. Our approach with standards is always to define a minimal core and to allow each individual member firm to innovate and differentiate their own offerings.

LKU is also an open, global, corporate university. It is not trying to be an academic institution offering doctorate level degrees. Instead it is modeled on corporate universities such as those at McDonald’s, Disney and Toyota and on consortia of training firms where they seek to offer similar training to similar standards around the world. LKU will define curriculum and publish those publicly. It will also use the gravitas of its membership, incorporating the throught leaders, intellectual property creators, and pioneers of Kanban in the field of knowledge work and service industries, to assure the quality and appropriateness of corporate training in the Kanban Method.

There are currently no plans to create an academic institution though a research program involving academic institutions may be possible in future.

What does LKU mean for me?

LKU offers you reassurance of good quality Kanban training. On completing an accredited two day class, you will be invited to become a member of the LKU web site. LKU will store a record of all your training, who the trainer was ,when you took the class and where, and you will be able to download certificates showing completion of accredited classes. These certificates will be co-branded with the logo of the training company and LKU. Over time, additional member benefits may be available.

LKU is not offering an end-user certification at this time. You do not become certified in Kanban by taking an accredited 2-day class. A certification scheme that would involve an examination is under review by the advisory board. It is likely that experienced academics will be invited to become involved in LKU if a decision is made to proceed with a certification scheme. In the event that this should happen LKU would then become an examination body in addition to its role as a standard body and quality assurance organization for Kanban training.

Closing Thoughts

Having been previously involved in the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) and more recently Lean Software & Systems Consortium, I am incredibly proud that we’ve been able to get the Accredited Kanban Training Program off the ground via LKU and its 18 member companies. I really believe that this organization has legs, has been established with a governance structure and charter that will give it longevity, and that we will be able to help a lot of people and a lot of businesses through LKU over the coming decades.

Posted by david on 02/29 at 10:02 AM KanbanLeanLimitedWIPSocietyPermalink
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