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I'd like to post some thoughts on the Siemens Healthcare Kanban implementation and case study. This case study from the United States has received a lot of coverage and the author and his Kanban coach have appeared at several Lean Kanban conferences presenting the story.

The story written by Bennet Valet of Siemens appeared on InfoQ and as such has caught the attention of many people. You can read it here...
Kanban at Scale – A Siemens Success Story

We've been reviewing this case study as a group exercise in KCP Masterclasses throughout this year. It is worthwhile posting some thoughts on this story because of both how it has been presented by Bennet Valet and Daniel Vacanti publicly and some of the claims made in the article.

Firstly, the good news, the story discusses the rollout of kanban systems across multiple services within a business unit at Siemens Healthcare in Malvern Pennsylvania. Around 500 people were involved and they already had Scrum implemented across product development. So this is a large scale Scrumban story where a business unit is adding Kanban to an existing Scrum implementation in order to take it to the next level. There are doubtless many companies interested in this scenario and the outcomes.

It seems that defect rates dropped dramatically after Kanban was implemented and productivity increased by approximately 35%. Achieving faster delivery from a group of 500 people by as much as 35% is a significant result and will have caught the attention of others in similar corporate situations.

So what are the problems with this case study and how it has been presented publicly? Firstly, there has been a salaciousness about the style of presentation and some of the claims made belong in the field of tabloid journalism. What is behind this behavior, I wouldn't like to speculate, but it has caused some chatter in the community that needs addressing. Secondly, there are some claims in the story stated as fact, and I have no doubt the author believes them to be facts but they don't stand up to scrutiny from reading the content of the case study...

For those who missed it, you will find my autumn conference series key note speech very insightful and useful background for this post. Kanban and Evolutionary Management - Lessons we can learn from Bruce Lee's journey in martial arts (video from Lean Kanban Central Europe, Hamburg, November 2013).

Every business or every unit of a business should know and understand its purpose. Sometimes businesses have lost sight of this and there is scope for a workshop exercise amongst senior leaders and business owners to define that purpose. What exactly are they in business to do? And it isn't simply to make money. If they simply wanted to make money they'd be investors and not business owners. They would spend their time managing investment portfolios and not leading a small tribe of believers who want to make something or serve someone. So why does the firm or business unit exist? If we know that we can start to explore what represents "fitness for purpose."

Recently, we've seen a lot of activity in the marketplace focused on "scaling Agile." It seems after a decade or so, people have been willing to admit the "Scrum of Scrums" concept just wasn't cutting it. There is now sufficient evidence of large scale failed Agile transition initiatives to know that previous decade's hypothesis about delivering large scale Agile adoption hasn't worked. Now we have a new wave. IBM has DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery) and Dean Leffingwell and Rally Software Development have SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework). Other tool vendors in the market are encouraging emergence of "me too" scaled Agile solutions.

None of this is really new. These frameworks are composed of many of the practices we've known for over a decade, almost two decades in some cases. We know these practices work in the small scale. What is new is that they are now offered within frameworks for tailoring, although I am increasing hearing that there is very little tailoring actually happening in the field and the transition is to a prescribed pre-defined enterprise scale process.So, what hasn't changed is the change management approach - large scale transition initiative to prescribed, designed or tailored solutions, with a preference for prescribed, apparently because it is easier and requires less skill and knowledge on the part of the constulants or trainers delivering it. This means consultants and trainers can be certified quickly and on a large scale. It is only a matter of time until most of these initiatives crash and burn against the same old obstacles - (1) the people being changed resist the initiative. The resistance is passive-aggressive and initially is not detected. It takes time before it is obvious the organization hasn't embraced the new way of working, and (2) the managers have not changed their behavior. While managers believe that there operational capability is a "process problem" they will continue to buy process solutions expecting them to fix the workers and how they work, while what is truly broken is the management and how managers make decisions.

Scaled Agile doesn't fix the real problem while it continues to promote the same old failed 20th Century approach to change. There is a truly easy way to scale agility in your organization. You adopt the Kanban Method as an approach to managing service dellivery, and you scale it out, across your organization, in a service-oriented fashion, one service at a time...

I've added an exercise on Kanban's values to the foundational and advanced practitioner training decks. This has become a fixture even at train-the-trainer events and I ran it twice(!) at the recent Kanban Leadership Retreat in Monterey. By popular demand we are releasing it separately under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license.

Recently, Klaus Leopold of Leanability in Vienna has introduced a "flight levels" metaphor to help explain how Kanban training maps to organizational maturity and the focus of improvement for service delivery. This model helps explain how Lean Kanban University training is positioned and why Lean Kanban University training delivers better value than alternative training that offers a shallow understanding of Kanban...

 

Flight Level 3 - End-to-end service delivery workflow

 

Recent changes in Kanban training curriculum has enabled Lean Kanban University to publish the first training roadmap for those learning Kanban for use in creative knowledge worker industries. The new roadmap is illustrated by this simple kanban board...

For those who saw Andy Carmichael's "Shortest Possible Definition of Kanban" talk at Lean Kanban United Kingdom, you will know that he talked about Kanban as having two approaches to scaling: scaling by not scaling through a service-oriented approachland scaling through a scale free assumption. This blog post addresses how that latter assumption is true. Our clarity on this on trult emerged during our Lean Kanban Inc leadership retreat in Phoenix recently where Mike Burrows and I agreed the symmetry of how Kanban scales. It turns out to be remarkably simple. Simplicity is a good thing. We are all for maintaining simplicity and leveraging its powerful nature with respect to complex domain problems.

You scale Kanban by removing infinite queues...

The Kanban Method is well known for its "start with what you do now" evolutionary approach. When I'm training coaches, I train them to be very neutral and with those from the Agile community, I train them to put their Agile advocacy aside with Kanban. The Kanban approach is about evolving to greater agility, if that is what is needed in a business. Not one of "install an Agile method." However ,Kurt Hausler argued, after attended the coaching masterclass, that Kanban does have its biases and that as Kanban coaches we should be more willing to embrace those biases and more transparent about them. The resultant debate in the community has led to the definition of Kanban's 3 Agendas: Sustainability; Service-orientation; Survivability.

LeanKanban University accepted three new Kanban Coaching Professionals (KCPs) on November 5 during the Lean Kanban Central Europe 2013 conference in Hamburg, Germany.  

The Kanban Coaching Professional program offers a professional designation for people coaching Kanban for organizations. These coaches may be embedded within single organizations or operate as independent consultants.

Typically Lean consultants, coming to knowledge work, follow a play book that is in my opinion, almost completely wrong.

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