Avoiding Failures with Kanban Initiatives

There are two recognized types of failures with Kanban initiatives: a failure to install, Kanban aborted before it gets started; and a failure to improve after an initial shallow Kanban adoption. Both of these failures are avoidable and both are reasons why the Kanban Coaching Professional Masterclass exists. In 2016, I’ve started to teach the KCP Masterclass a little differently from the 5-day curriculum I’ve used over the past 2 years. I’d like to explain the changes and why I’ve made them.

Recently, I’ve blogged about Organizational Maturity and Kanban Patterns. If you haven’t read those and want to catch up then here is a list of the articles with links…

Recently, we’ve seen increasing evidence that Kanban has, to use marketing vernacular, “crossed the chasm.” We base this judgment on the type of buyers who are in the market to adopt Kanban, take Kanban training, buy Kanban coaching and tools. Mainstream market buyers tend to be followers. They also tend to be tool users rather than people interested in joining a movement. They are people with genuine challenges at work and they are looking for specific solutions to apply to the problem areas. We are now seeing a significant number of these buyers in our market. We see them at our conferences and we see them in our classes. This includes the coaching masterclass.

Typically, attendees at coaching masterclasses are leaders. They are interested in joining the Kanban movement, and they believe in evolutionary change, and want to promote the ideas in their markets and with their clients or employers. Recently, we’ve seen a shift. A growing number of attendees at masterclasses are coaches and change agents in the midst of a Kanban adoption and they need tools to apply directly to their situation. The change in the curriculum reflects this change in the market and the more immediate needs of attendees for specific, pragmatic, actionable guidance that they can take away and immediately implement the following Monday. The new focus on Kanban Patterns and aligning a pattern of kanban design and the implementation of the Kanban Cadences to specific levels of organizational maturity, provide those pragmatic, actionable tools for application to specific situations and contexts.

So, the new coaching masterclass is very context specific, context aware and built around developing an understanding for context.

Day 1 of the new class is built around this series of blog posts describing Kanban design patterns and styles of Kanban Board and understanding organizational maturity. So this new 2016 material has become the backbone of the new curriculum and tuning kanban designs to organizational maturity levels based on depth of kanban patterns is the newest in a powerful lineup of Kanban coaching tools.

The other big change to the 2016 curriculum is that the case study review are now interspersed with the curriculum with the class typically reading and critiquing 1 or 2 case studies each day. This allows me to create a narrative with the case studies, gradually introducing more concepts and theory and allowing the class to reflect on how these ideas play out in real life and affect the adoption, implementation and results achieved at different companies. Case studies have become a core piece of understanding Kanban coaching and taking coaching skills to a higher level.

For years, attendees of the Kanban Coaching Masterclass have found it career or life changing: it gives them a new way to see the world around them, to interpret human behavior and devise action to move an organization in the right direction. They learn to understand why people resist change, how they resist it and what they might do about it. However, the class always assumed an existing deep knowledge of kanban system mechanics, the Kanban Method, and an ability to implement and use Kanban. The class assumed people were familiar with all the ideas we teach in the Kanban System Design (KSD) and Kanban Management Professional (KMP) class. There wasn’t a lot of Kanban content in the masterclass. It was a meta-level class for coaches already familiar with Kanban. This was a source of some dissatisfaction and at least caused people to wonder what it was all about, at least at the end of the first day. It often took 2 or 3 days of class before all the pieces began to fit together. With the new 2016 class, there is immediate exposure to kanban systems, kanban board designs, and implementation detail. Coaches can immediately relate what they are learning to their own experience with Kanban. This is a powerful improvement.

The final change is that the risk assessment materials which provide tools for scheduling, sequencing, selecting and risk hedging work through kanban systems, is now moved to Day 5 of the class. The first four days are focused on implementing kanban, negotiating the implementation, identify sources of resistance and understanding how to motivate change and get people on-board to build momentum for an evolutionary change initiative. The fifth day deals with a different topic: how to give an organization a shared language to talk about work, demand, expectations and to understand the value in deferred commitment and the use of pull systems. Day 5 provides the risk assessment tools to give everyone in the organization a new way to see and understand the work they are asked to do, why they are doing it and the benefits it delivers. We know this material changes company cultures. We know that acquiring a shared language for risk assessment and evaluation of scheduling, sequencing and selection decisions, creates alignment, a shared sense of purpose and a shared understanding of outcomes, that greatly improves collaboration and breaks down barriers. It is a vital coaching tool.

Coaches who have completed the Kanban Coaching Professional Masterclass are better equipped to drive better, faster, more predictable, long-lasting, institutionalized results. Coaches who have been through this class understand how to avoid both types of failures. They have the skills to avoid failures to install, by selecting the correct pattern and the correct depth of Kanban to get started. They know how to “avoid the rocks” and to go around the sources of resistance. They also know how to tune the Kanban Cadences to suit the level of maturity and avoid the second mistake – the inability to improve beyond the initial benefits from implementing a board or a basic pull system. We know this works as we’ve been observing these results for 6 years already. The latest changes are aimed at making the program even more effective and better tuned to the new mainstream market audience – tool users, who want Kanban as a tool, to solve specific problems in their workplace and who need coaching tools to help them succeed better with Kanban. If you are considering taking a Kanban coaching masterclass, review our class listings regularly. We offer these classes globally. Don’t see a location or dates that suit you, then email us!

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