Kanban as a change management tool

August 23, 2009

I am beginning to better understand how effective Kanban can be as a change management tool.  Any kind of change within an organization is often preceded by fear and worry which lead to resistance.  People aren’t sure what’s going to happen, how it’s going to affect the company, or how it’s going to affect them personally.  In the past, when I have introduced new ideas, practices, or concepts within SEP, they have often required people to change the way they work on a daily basis – a very low level impact.  However, I have not found that to be the case with Kanban.  Kanban works to minimize changes by initially asking people to add a few ideas to their current work flow.  Things like,but not necessarily including: visually representing tasks on a board with sticky notes, attending a daily standup meeting to discuss items on the board, limit the amount of work based on the Kanban WIP limits, and only “pull” work when capacity is available.  It does not attempt to make people change those low level, daily, deeply ingrained work habits at the onset.  And, in doing so, it minimizes an individual’s resistance by reducing fear.  As Deming pointed out, reducing fear is a very good thing!