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Role-based Guidance: How Might the Kanban Method Influence Your Role?

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” — Peter Drucker

“As a job seeker, remember this: You only lack experience if they want it done the same old way.” — Robert Brault

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” — Steve Jobs

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.” — Albert Einstein

 KLRUS14 – Monterey

In January leading practitioners and coaches of the Kanban Method gathered at the Kanban Leadership Retreat. While preparing our “just-in-time” agenda at the start, a topic suggested for discussion was a variation on a question we had all heard often, “How does ‘kanban’ impact my role: as a Project Manager, or as a Business Analyst, or as Product Manager, or as a Program Manager?” It was definitely interesting to hear responses from others to this question, and for me it was one of the more useful sessions.

First Things First

Confused-Cartoon-Face1Since the Kanban Method is not a specific workflow methodology or process, and therefore is not something that replaces your current workflow process, but rather a tool that can be used to improve any workflow process, it doesn’t prescribe specific roles. It isn’t that kind of tool.

It’s also helpful to consider that improving your current workflow, even in significant ways, won’t necessarily require creating and defining “new roles and practices.” Still, it is important to recognize using it as a tool to improve your current workflow process should clearly result in some noteworthy changes. Right?

A good place to start is to understand upfront that a core component of the “Kanban Method” is using a kanban system, or even more fundamentally using a “pull based system”, to help address obstacles to creating and maintaining a predictable workflow and improving performance over time. That is, if you’re not familiar with “pull systems”, I’d suggest to anyone using the Kanban Method to first focus on understanding the fundamental changes to pull thinking. Allow this new thinking in turn to influence the ideas and experiments (changes) that emerge for improving the design and operations of your workflow process.1 Then, if necessary and only as needed, consider any benefits that might exist from adding (or removing) roles and associated practices. (more…)

The Kanban Method: Is It Just Scrum With Tweaks or Is There More?

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” – Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., U.S. historian. “The Challenge of Change,” New York Times Magazine (July 27, 1986)

 “A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.” – Alan Watts, British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker (1915 – 1973)


“What is the Kanban Method?”

  • It’s not about replacing your current software development process.
  • It’s not about changing or removing your team’s current titles and roles or adding new ones.
  • It’s not about a process that is only for support, maintenance, or “dev-ops” teams.

Does any of the above surprise you?

If so, maybe it would be useful and helpful to take a closer look at the Kanban Method from a different perspective.

Kanban Leaders Retreat (KLRUS) 

In November 2012 I attended the Kanban Leaders Retreat (KLRUS) in San Diego. Over two days there I had an opportunity to take part in a number of break out sessions with several other leading coaches, trainers, and practitioners of the Kanban Method. In one of the sessions we focused on identifying some of the “surprising” myths and misconceptions we were hearing about the Kanban Method while coaching, training, and working with others. As summarized by some participating, “there really is a lot of surprising ‘stuff’ out there!” In the context of this post I’ll limit myself to providing a taste of our discussion there at KLRUS. In particular, focusing for the moment on a misconception I hear often, the Kanban Method: It’s just Scrum with tweaks.

If you’re just beginning to learn for yourself about the Kanban Method, I hope this post provides a useful foundational perspective to keep in mind as you continue learning, researching, and reading articles, posts, etc. For others more familiar with the Kanban Method already, I hope it provides a little insight into the misconceptions you’re likely to run into, if you haven’t already run into this one, and how some in the community are discussing them in ways we feel will help others see the Kanban Method from a more useful and different perspective. (more…)