Pure Kanban: Clearing the fog surrounding a simple and highly practical approach

What is Kanban? You’d think the answer would be simple but there’s a fog of definitions out there, many of which confuse and mix-up useful techniques from Agile, Lean and Systems Thinking with Kanban itself.

The result is confusion with people asking themselves: Am I doing Kanban right? If you’re asking that then you’re misinformed on what Kanban is and how to best harness its power. It’s really very very simple.

You’ll find many definitions of Kanban out there, Joseph Hurtado provides a useful summary of alternatives, David Anderson has his own unique definition and there are many other attempts to define it, some solid and others still evolving.

I don’t like many of them much because they tend to overlook theory and jump straight to defining a cobbled-together set of activities, each one somewhat different to the others. They ignore the fact that these activities are just a small subset of many possible activities, practices, techniques that can naturally follow if you understand the simple theory behind Kanban.

Understanding the theory frees you to create your own activities, practices and techniques that may be better suited to your environment than any “standard” ones you are “supposed” to follow because they are some consultant’s or trainer’s preference. That freedom is what Kanban is really about.

Read on for freedom.


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Explored: Management in Networks by Harold Jarche

I recently came across an excellent thought-provoking article by Harold Jarche titled Management in Networks. The ideas within are well worth expanding on and spreading more widely, hence this post.

Jarche’s central point is that within a network structure (peer-to-peer), cooperation is more important than traditional ideas of common objectives and managed collaboration. As organisations become flatter, people connect directly to others to pursue new objectives. In this world, success is founded on a high degree of knowledge sharing and exploration of areas outside core objectives that traditionally would not be permitted.


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How to avoid screwing up Vision & Mission (Part IV)

In the final part of this four-part mini-series, we continue on from Strategies & Goals, Tactics, Vision & Mission and now look at a simple recipe to put everything together. Finally, we round off with how to avoid common pitfalls when defining a Vision and Mission.

First an appeal: Please do your best not to get it wrong. The world doesn’t need any more bad visions or missions. Better not to have any at all than do it in a half-hearted way.



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Why Vision and Mission matter and what makes for good ones (Part III)

Continuing on from Strategies and Tactics, in Part III we look at the importance of Vision and Mission. In Part IV we’ll look at the common ways people get Vision and Mission wrong and bring all concepts together with Goals in a simple, clear structure.

This was also prompted by a Twitter conversation where a poster told me in response to Part I that Goals and Mission were all the same and what mattered was how you used whatever you called it.

I’d love to agree but I can’t. That’s because I’ve found time and time again that these concepts do matter, are separate and handled properly can make a real difference. So this is to explain why and how.


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A key person in my team is resisting change, what do I do?

This is a really common problem – all of us at some stage have struggled with someone in our teams who resists change and yet is crucial to the current operation. We need them to change but we also need them to stay and be part of the change.

Fortunately there are a few simple strategies you can take to overcome this kind of problem and which will quickly lead to clear result – either they’ll change or it will become clear they never will, in which case you can move on.


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Drowning in meetings, what do I do?

Perhaps it will reassure you to know that this is extremely common – so at least you are in good company. The plague of meetingitis has infected large parts of the world. Fortunately the solution is simple.

I often wonder just how much latent productivity is locked up in the world’s obsession with meetings. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if an economic boom followed a decision to ban excessive meetings, making them a criminal offence!

Happily though, you don’t need to wait for that to be able to take action.


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Don’t Confuse Strategies with Goals and Tactics (Part II)

In Part I, we examined what triggered this blog post, how people often confuse Goals with Strategies and why this matters so much.

Next let’s look at tactics.

A tactic is a reusable method that can support execution of a strategy. They are reusable because the same tactic may support multiple strategies.

Tactics require knowledge of real work on the ground; a closeness to customers, employees and the market

Tactics are not complete strategies themselves – where strategy is big picture, tactic is down in the detail. Tactics require knowledge of real work on the ground; a closeness to customers, employees and the market.

To achieve any big goals it is essential to have a clear strategy and rapidly get to specific tactics. This is what will guide the whole business in achieving the goals and making them real.


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Don’t Confuse Strategies with Goals and Tactics (Part I)

I’ve just been reading The Difference between Strategy and Tactics by Jeremiah Owyang which repeats the same mistake that people often make: confusion over what a “strategy” is and how it differs from goals and tactics.

First, let’s go back to the definition of strategy, from Merriam-Webster:

Strat-e-gy (noun)

: a careful planar method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time

: the skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal

So a strategy is a path to a goal, not the goal itself.


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What’s the problem with Engagement?

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand what the problem is with engagement in the workplace and what can be done about it.

I discuss how recent surveys have shown only 13% of people are engaged in their work and the tragedy that is the lost ambition of so many people in work. I speak about my optimism on the potential improvement that can be made and about the huge difference this makes to people’s lives.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you handle Supply Chain Management?

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to handle supply chain management within a service organisation.

I discuss the importance of effective supplier management and how key it is to understand what should be outsourced by properly understanding an organisation’s core competencies.

Through the example of a call centre operation, we explore the risks of badly-managed outsourcing, how to implement a better, more productive approach that is learning-driven and sourcing complete teams from suppliers. Finally, I discuss further symptoms of badly-managed procurement and outsourcing.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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