When a person becomes a new manager and they put on their pointy hair, they are taught a new word for those that they now manage — resources. The word itself is not inherently negative. We have natural resources, finite resources, valuable resources… all things desperately sought after. But, should we treat people like, or refer to them as, things?

Historically, the prevailing management behavior has been to dehumanize their workers, call them resources and normalize them to the ranks of other “non-human” resources. It is so ingrained that nearly every company has a Human Resources department. Now, this isn’t done with a conscious choice to subjugate the human population of a company. Its just the underlying culture of corporate life in America, maybe even across the world.

I’m happy to see that the methodologies starting to prevail, at least in the software development world, have elements that reiterate the importance of the employee, both teams and individuals. There is a movement away from traditional command and control structures that is refreshing. Why hire super smart domain experts if you, as a boss, need to control everything?

I find Lean to be a very ¬†humanistic domain. The Lean Systems Society’s¬†credo, for instance, says that the development of effective systems requires “a holistic approach that incorporates the human condition.” What I have loved about the Lean and Kanban conferences, trainings and meetups I have been to is the highly intellectual nature of what people bring to the table to discuss and how much psychology and people are part of the conversation.

Kanban makes people a priority through its basic principles. Firstly, you respect the value that lies in what was already in existence. It was there for a reason, it likely provided some value. Before you throw anything out the window, you need to show respect and implement change in a way that respects the humans that were involved in the thing being changed. Additionally, we should aim to introduce incremental, evolutionary change in order to reduce, or even avoid, resistance to change.

Learning deeply about Kanban includes learning about the psychology of change. Kanban is much more than just a board with some wip limit numbers scribbled on top. Although that is an important part of Kanban, its a very shallow and partial implementation and if you leave it at that, you do not get the full benefit that the Lean way of thinking can provide.