Everyday Kanban

Discussing Management, Teams, Agile, Lean, Kanban & more

My leadership vision and a challenge to you

When I was in a class for new managers at my current employer a few years back, I was challenged to write a leadership vision. For a while, when you’re a new manager, you spend a lot of time getting on your feet and managing, but not that much time leading. There is a difference between the two. It is easy to get caught up in that and fail to make the transition. However, I managed to begin my journey to becoming a leader and created my leadership vision so I wouldn’t be a ship sailing with no navigation. My leadership vision statement is below.

As a leader of a development team, I strive to continually:

  1. protect my employees from unreasonable demands
  2. clear the obstacles so that work can be done
  3. inspire and motivate my team so that they desire excellence
  4. be a collaborative partner of the business we serve
  5. be a good role model of honesty, integrity, attitude and work ethic

Now, I have no idea how this measures up to others’ leadership visions but I’m not sure I care about that! The reason I’m posting about it here is that I think Lean practices, including Kanban, can and will help me fulfill this vision. Kanban is definitely not  a magic bullet that completely takes care of it all in one fell swoop, but it definitely manages to hit most of the bullet points to one degree or another.

The practices of visualizing your work serves to give visibility to my client, thereby bolstering our ability to collaborate and contributes to the honesty role model desire. Limiting WIP helps me protect my employees from unreasonable demands and also lets them focus on providing a quality of excellence (the more you are excellent, the higher the drive to stay that way). Doing both of the above helps me identify obstacles in our value flow so I can begin to clear them out of the way. There are many other ways I can tie Kanban to this vision, but I’d like to ask you the following:

  • Do you have a leadership vision?
  • Do Lean practices help you achieve your vision?
  • Does Kanban play a role?

Even if you don’t comment on this blog post (but, please do!), I challenge you to consider this on your own. If you don’t have a leadership vision, write one. You don’t need to have a specific title to be a leader. You can lead from any station in life. I also challenge you to consider how Lean practices can contribute to your leadership goals.


  1. I haven’t put much detail to any vision of leadership. I find I more strive for a “sweet spot” in the area you describe – keeping my team utilized and challenged but not over burdened, and our client happy but grounded in reality. Kanban definitely helps by destroying the notion of preferential treatment and illusion that just because someone is “assigned” a task doesn’t mean progress is being made.

    Where I’m at currently, it’s been a longer struggle (partly because I share management of the team) to remove this notion that all work must be scheduled against “resources” (apologize for quotes abuse), but apart from a few select MOMs (managers of mangers) it’s clear people have been ready for this change for a while.

    As for the vision, I suppose it’s to partner and earn success together. The one prevailing theme I’ve found important to success as a leader is inclusion, and sticking to the truth that we’re all working for the same larger goals as an organization, at both business and personal levels. There’s a harmony that can be reached through people and processes, and sticking with Lean principles, it is subject to continuous improvement.

  2. To use an Olympics analogy I see an organization/team as a human body during a race. There are competitors, there are different organs involved in its operation and different outside factors that affect its race. As a result, I try to:

    1. Learn how to see from the perspective of each body part and organ. Know what nourishes it, how it operates at its best, and how much strain it can handle. Know what you can do to help, even if it means sending more blood to the lungs so the blood can get more oxygen in order for the feet to move faster.

    2. Keep a finger on the vital signs of the organization – what is the chemistry and culture, what glues parts together, what is the blood pressure. When it is sick – what are the symptoms vs. causes of its pain. When there is pain, the treatment is change, but change may be an outside pill or a infection that could be both harmful and helpful to a big organism. The bigger the body the more antibodies it has to protect itself against change (after all the wrong kind of change can be deadly). You have to learn how to deliver medication for different conditions. Having an eye on the vitals allows for rapid diagnosis and “agile” treatments.

    3. Know what the organization needs to do to win. What is the outside environment – the track keeps changing from grass to grave and even if I am just a part of “the foot” I need to know and be prepared for a mid-air change of shoes.

    4. The base of it all, hidden within every cell, is the ability of the organization to rejuvenate itself – maintain its level of fitness and competitive skill. To remain hungry so it can remain fast. For that deliberate practice is important( http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2012/07/what-is-deliberate-practice/ )

    The above model can be applied to an entire company or a single unit/team, and in its whole it represents wisdom, awareness, experience. Sometimes, by doing #1, #2 and #3 at the same time you see what the body needs is different than what it wants. In that case leadership is the courage to bring that up to those who make decisions, or make the adjustments to the stride you have the responsibility to make. The key to having the energy and knowledge to do precisely what is needed is #4. A body that doesn’t practice #4 ages and looses its desire to compete.

    My leadership vision is to constantly learn how to do 1, 2 and 3 better and never cower from seeking out and delivering what my team needs in addition to doing what it wants, while practicing #4 daily. Sorry for the long post 🙂

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