Management Takes The Lead in the Lean Journey

Apr 15, 2014 in Uncategorized by
Management Takes The Lead in the Lean Journey

LKNA‘s Pivot to Lean Leadership in 2014

The last 15 years have been an amazing journey- the breaking and piecing together of a great puzzle. It started with software developers proposing a better way to develop product that involved just them and the customer. Over the years we learned that additional skills made for better results – scrum welcomed management and testing disciplines to rejoin the team in iterative, incremental delivery. SAFe and other scaled agile approaches expanded the view of software delivery to larger systems and organizations.

With Kanban, lean thinking and focusing on the value stream brought measurement-based, evolutionary improvement to the forefront. Lean startup and other discovery approaches like lean UX more recently help us ask “why” and “for whom”. These brought design thinking and matching real customer needs with product viability and technical feasibility into the picture. The (potential) result – a coalescence of lean thinking applied to diverse disciplines, united for a common purpose of increasing customer value via product development.

Lots of Adoption…Less Impact

But something has been missing – because in many companies, these efforts don’t nearly realize their potential, and while “adoption” may be successful, impact is limited or disappointing. In some, the improvements themselves are backed out, and given a bad name as failures.

Many of us have experienced it – the initial buzz and excitement generated by a new approach – the possibilities realized when we do something unprecedented – like get product to a delighted customer in record time, or learn something that leads to the next great product. The early success and energy give way to an improvement plateau – day by day, the new way bumps into the reality of the organization. Energy dissipates. We make exceptions to our new values to “fit” with the way things have always been done. Every compromise draws away energy from the improvement, and from the great outcomes. Eventually, we are left using some of the new language, but basically doing what we did before.

All this time, the bumps were a warning…

…screaming out to us the answer…

…the things we treated as ‘obstacles’ were not resistance – they were the next pieces in the puzzle.

We were neglecting the need for our leaders to design environments in which the new values could thrive. Instead, our teams had to force-fit these values into organizations that lacked the structure, processes, and culture to support them. Our teams became more lean, but the rest of the organization didn’t.

Completing the Puzzle

Flash forward to 2014, and the final puzzle pieces remain- the organization that thrives in times of change, and the leader that designs environments in which it becomes so. Exemplifying continuous learning itself, the LKNA conference – with its pivot towards modern management methods – will help to fill this void by solving real problems and providing evidence-based guidance. From tackling the challenges of budgeting (see Bjarte Bogsnes’ “Beyond Budgeting” keynote), to innovative product management (see Lean Startup track), to enabling managers with decision making tools (see David Anderson’s “Decide with Confidence…” keynote), to revolutionizing the way we manage and act in complexity (see David Snowden’s “Think Anew, Act Anew” keynote), the conference is boldly addressing the misalignments that constrain our lean journey.

If you are involved in such a transformation, and any of this looks familiar, or if you are doing well in your improvement efforts, but are just looking for more ways to ensure that it is actually having impact, and that it won’t eventually become another buzzword to toss in the “didn’t work for us” drawer, this conference will bring great benefit. The experiential workshops and other interactive learning at this conference will propel attendees forward in their improvement journey – enabling leaders to design organizations in which desired behaviors are encouraged and continuously improve the flow of value to customers.

If you do take advantage of this incredible opportunity, please come by the “Breaking the Org” workshop. Darrin Ladd and I will be hosting an interactive sample of an approach that we use with our clients to help them deal with these challenges.


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