Monday, July 09, 2012
Why I resigned from the board of the Lean Systems Society
Yesterday Alan Shalloway and I resigned from the board of the Lean Systems Society. Doubtless Alan will want make his own public statement about his reasons for resigning so I won’t speak for him. I do, however, feel I should share my own reasons with the community.
At my 2009, Lean & Kanban conference, in Miami, a group of interested parties met and formed the Lean Software & Systems Consortium. Amongst many goals, the consortium envisaged building a body of knowledge for Lean in knowledge work activities, standards, curriculum and some form of certification or accreditation for those taking Lean (and Kanban) training. However, few organizations joined the consortium. Initially it was my own firm, Alan’s firm and Indigo Blue in the UK. Rally paid a membership fee and joined for one year. The board was made up mainly of people from my own firm, as well as Net Objectives and Rally with Donald Reinertsen, Jim Sutton and later Rich Turner replacing Don. All the work for the organization was done by staff of my own firm and those of Net Objectives with a not insignificant contribution from Karl Scotland (of Conchango and later Rally.) No other firms were willing to join the consortium or pay membership fees. A program initiative involving Kanban software tool vendors to develop some standards failed to gain full traction and hasn’t established anything of value. Those vendors did not join the consortium as members. This was in part due to their financial positions at the time. The only truly viable program within LSSC was the conference series within the United States that was ultimately run and bankrolled by my own firm. The Limited WIP Society which the LSS lays claim to was started by Rob Hathaway, of Indigo Blue, Karl Scotland, Janice Linden-Reed and I. It has been a considerable success mostly through the incredible efforts of Janice and to some extend Karl over the past 3 years. I’d go as far as to say the Limited WIP Society has thrived despite the LSSC rather than because of it. It is, however, one of the notable successes. It was fair to say that by April 2012 the board had concluded that the business model of the Consortium had failed and that it was time for a change of direction.
In April 2012, a month prior to the 2012 conference in Boston, a board meeting was held at Janice Linden-Reed’s home in Seattle. During this board meeting it was decided that the organization needed a fresh start - a new name and a new charter. The Lean System Society was born. The name and charter inspired by my suggestion that we model the new organization on the Royal Society. In doing so, the LSS would get out of commercial activities and necessary market development activities that were happening naturally in the market without stimulation or assistance from the LSSC. This would include getting out of the conference business. My firm would continue to run the North American conference returning to the name Lean Kanban North America and falling into line with the other regional events held in Europe.
The LSS would form a fellowship to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to Lean for knowledge work. An initial list of 45 people were selected and invited to join the fellowship. Most of them accepted. A process to nominate future fellows was put in place. The LSS would take charge of the Brickell Key Award to honor recent outstanding achievers and winners would be automatically nominated to the fellowship. I had started the award in 2010 as part of the conference as an initially unilateral decision. Anyone inspecting the trophies awarded to winners will notice that the LSSC was never mentioned on them. The LSSC has however been funding the travel grant awarded to the winners. LSS considers the Brickell Key Award a sufficiently good idea that it wants to adopt it and fund it for the foreseeable future. So the LSS will have 3 initial programs: the fellowship designed to amplify the contribution of fellows; the Brickell Key Award designed to highlight the work of up-and-coming members of our community; and the Limited WIP Society.
Jim Sutton, president of the LSS, announced these changes at the Lean Software & Systems Conference in Boston in May. Phase one of the transition was complete.
Lean Kanban University
In 2011, Alan Shalloway and I launched Lean Kanban University as a web site to highlight and market quality Kanban training (and other Lean knowledge work training that may come later). In November, we expanded this business with 16 charter member firms to develop standards for teaching the Kanban Method including a defined curriculum and an accreditation program for training materials and trainers. Accredited trainers are known as AKT (Accredited Kanban Trainer.) There are now 24 member firms and this number is likely to continue growing. This program was possible because we’d taken it out of LSSC and developed it as a separate commercial entity. However, some legacy remained that the LSSC had been formed originally to develop such a program. The new LSS was not in that business but this was not explicit rather it was inferred by omission.
It was evident, however, that the market didn’t understand the difference between the two organizations and all the branding for both entities at our events was confusing.
Giving LSS Wings
I decided to resign from the LSS board and encouraged Alan to do the same, in order to clearly communicate that Lean Kanban University and Lean Systems Society are two separate organizations with separate goals and purposes.
I believe that after 3 years, it is time for some fresh blood on the LSS board and that new people, with new energy and enthusiasms will help it to thrive and build its own identity and relevance in the market. I consider this move the completion of phase 2 of the transition from LSSC to LSS
What’s next for LSS?
Currently there are two open positions on the board of LSS and the remaining board members are looking to appoint two members from the fellowship to fill these positions. Alan and I will not get any say in the new appointments. It is, however, my desire to see some diversity on the LSS board and I would encourage the board to consider appointing a European and a South American to fill the open positions. And so phase 3 of the transition begins. With the appointment of new board members I believe the transition will be complete and the LSSC will be dead. Long live the Lean Systems Society!