Thursday, April 26, 2012
Kanban - Lack of Roles is a Strength
In their mini-book, Kanban and Scrum - making the most of both, Henrik Kniberg and Mattias Skarin point out that the Kanban Method does not prescribe any roles. Often people ask about roles in Kanban, expecting to be trained to play a specific role. The response is that your role remains the same as it is today. This is a core principle of the Kanban Method - you start with what you do now and you initially respect current roles, responsibilities and job titles.
There is a Role in Kanban
There is one role that helps when using the Kanban Method - the role of Change Agent. I hope to document this role when I get around to writing my book on Advanced Kanban. It is this role that my 3-day Advanced Kanban Masterclass (formerly known as the Coaching and Leadership Workshop) prepares people to play. If you are leading a Kanban change initiative then you might benefit from this advanced class.
A Lack of Roles is a Strength
When you create a change management process, a process that is designed to act on a workflow process and catalyze changes within it, you don’t want that change process to create inertia or increase resistance to change.
As Peter Senge wrote, “People do not resist change, they resist being changed.” A job title and a role played and the practices inherent to that role become part of an individual’s identity. Hence, asking them to adopt a new role, or a new job title, or change the practices performed in the role, is an attack on their identity. They will resist the requested change emotionally.
As Joe Campbell taught us 3 years ago, Kanban is telling you to “be like water.” The Kanban Method is design to go around the rock and the metaphorical rock in change management is emotional resistance. Kanban tries to avoid emotional resistance. Is does this in part by embracing current roles, responsibilities and job titles. Kanban does not prescribe roles in order to reduce resistance to change. A lack of roles is a strength!
Separation of Concerns
I truly believe that to have successful change, your process for change needs to be separate from the workflow process used to deliver customer-valued knowledge work such as software. A process cannot be both a delivery mechanism and a change mechanism. To be a delivery mechanism there is a need to design, define and prescribe roles with titles and practices. To be a successful change mechanism there is a need to avoid doing such things.
Lean has now given us two change process mechanisms - Kanban and A3. I consider A3 an alternative, a rival perhaps, to Kanban. A3 and Kanban are peers. A3 is a change process that acts upon delivery processes and workflows. A3 like Kanban doesn’t prescrive process workflow roles.
First generation Agile methods such as Scrum try to be both a delivery mechanism and a change mechanism. Scrum is challenged as a change method because it prescribes roles for the delivery method - the scrum master and the product owner, explicitly. In doing so, Scrum hits the rock head-on. It creates inertia against change by invoking emotional resistance in those being changed.
Kanban does not define or prescribe roles for the software development or project management process. It does not change the roles in the workflow for delivering customer-valued work. Kanban is a change management process designed to work upon the delivery process. A3 is a peer of Kanban. A3 uses a different approach but it is designed as a separate change management process. Separating the concerns of delivery from change is strength. It reduces resistance to change. Processes, such as Scrum, that couple delivery with change, struggle because the defined roles create resistance to change. It is, therefore, better to keep the change process separate from the delivery process.