Everyday Kanban

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

Month: July 2012

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.

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Slack is not a dirty word: How ‘slack’ can improve your products.

In a Kanban system you introduce WIP limits at each step of the value flow. This means, that if you get stuck at any one step in the flow and things are not moving forward, then all those who operate in earlier stages of the system enter a holding pattern. If you’re explaining Kanban to managers or executives, this is usually the point that makes them take a sharp turn off of the Lean highway! They mentally write off the whole concept of Kanban because “they don’t want anyone sitting idle.” What skeptics call “sitting idle” is often referred to as slack in the system.

These executives and managers may not realize it, but they are turning their backs on the very thing that could make their company and its products more innovative and stable.┬áIf you are working nose-to-the-grindstone 100% of your day on new initiatives then you have no time to think, to reflect. Therefore, you have no time to consider innovations or improvements to your products and services. These developers struggle just to keep your head above water, to survive. They often, if we’re lucky, have lists of things they notice that need to be improved or defects that need to be fixed. Many of those things will never get the attention they need. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, does it?

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The only constant is change

Businesses want ultimate flexibility and speed to market. Developers want complete requirements so they can do their jobs right the first time without a lot of back and forth. Historically, companies have implemented a waterfall approach in which all the requirements are complete before any development is done. It can take a while to gather all the requirements for large initiatives and then just as long, or longer, to develop against those requirements. After that is done, a single long round of QA testing is undertaken and only then do products release to the wild.

Who’s happy in that scenario? You would think that developers win and businesses lose. The developers got exactly what they asked for, right? Continue reading

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