Wednesday, June 19, 2013

LKNA13 in Chicago

The Conference Lean Kanban North America (formerly known as Lean Software and Systems) is the mother of all Lean/Kanban Conferences. After a truly awesome event in Boston last year, it took place in Chicago, the Windy City, this year from April 28 – May 2. The tagline for this year was "Managing Flow, Complexity & Risk",
We (that is Naddel and Fridel from Jimdo and me) arrived on Saturday - after a great week in San Francisco where we visited the Jimdo US office as well as the two startups 99designs and foursquare. We took a walk around downtown and went to the great lake where a funny techno charity run took place.


Sunday started with two meetings of the Lean-Kanban University - the organization which is dealing with professional designations for Kanban trainers and coaches. This time we talked a lot about the market needs for Kanban trainings in different countries and continents as well as the freshly inaugurated coaching program (Kanban Coaching Professional, KCP). During the second meeting, Mike Burrows said something that made me think: "We don‘t want to teach teams tricks! We want to help them improve their learning capability."
The meetings were quite shorts, so I had time to meet Naddel, Fridel and Katrin and have a sandwich at Hannah‘s Bretzel - the ├╝ber sandwich makers!

At the welcome reception on Sunday evening we met a lot of old friends and had a couple of beers - what a great start for a conference!


Monday I was track chairing the Kanban at Scale track. We had two speakers dropping out, but (once again) it was really easy to find very good replacements with Bill Foy and Dan Vacanti. Bill started the track with his talk "What is your best performance strategy?" He presented some of the results of the interviews he did with managers from different organizations. The one that resonated with me the most was "Managers have to switch from the big picture to details, back and forth. This leads to clearity, because we see something from one perspective and still have the other perspective in mind". After this, Joakim and Anders presented the scaling mechanism at Spotify. You can find the basics in this PDF document, but the presentation contains much more. So if you ever have the chance to meet them, don‘t miss it!

Dan Vacanti presented an case study from Siemens Healthcare. They reached impressive outcomes by understanding their system, measuring the flow and limiting WIP.

Another case study was presented by Ramon Tramontini and Marcelo Walter from Peru: "The Spice must Flow" They described some emerging practices that helped them and their team to manage their flow, gain more effectiveness and sustainable pace.

The last talk of the day was "Kanban, Leadership and Alignment at Jimdo" by Fridel and me. We presented the way Jimdo is working. Especially the importance of the company culture and different formats for structured communication. We will publish this material in more depth soon. Meanwhile you can have a look at our slides.
We received a lot of positive feedback, so it was time for a little bit of posing;-)

My main takeaway from the Kanban at Scale track: We shouldn‘t try to scale Kanban. First we need to understand the organization we are dealing with, its history and the problem it is facing. If we come to the conclusion that Kanban helps us deal with these problems, we have to develop our own Kanban implementation. There is no one right way to do this!

In the evening I gave an interview with infoQ about implementing and Scaling Kanban. You can find it here.

Later in the evening, Jim Benson facilitated an OpenSpace. I was sitting at the table with the topic "Military Doctrine". There were so many very smart people at this table, that I learned a whole lot in 90 minutes - and also wrote down four pages of notes and drank a couple of beers - all at the same time! Whoever wants to learn more about Auftragstaktik (which is really enlightening, even for pacifists like me), should read these two books: The Art of Action and Certain to win.


The day started with Stephen Parry‘s keynote. I had heard a lot of his stuff (i.e. climate model) before, but it was still interesting to hear it again.

After lunch the Brickell Key Award ceremony took place. I was lucky enough to hand over the Trophy to Troy Magennis for his amazing work with using Monte Carlo Simulations for forecasting with Kanban. This stuff will change the way projects are run in the future. So watch out for Troy! The second trophy was given to Yuval Yeret, Kanban Pioneer in Israel and a real practitioner and out-of-the-box thinker. Congratulations to both winners, well deserved!

After a sneak preview for Mary and Tom Poppendieck‘s new book in their talk, I was lucky to hear Simon Bennett speaking. His talk Rules, Reactance and Gaming was really entertaining and useful! I will not even try to summarize his great story about speed-detector-detector-detectors. One big main takeaway for me was: If we want people to follow rules, we must make clear that they understand (and agree with) the intent behind the rules. And it‘s more likely that they follow the rules when they were involved in the creation process.

In the evening it was Deep Dish Pizza time (a must-eat for every tourist in Chicago). Gaetano who knows a lot about Pizza said: "It tastes good, but it has nothing to do with Pizza!" We had a great evening with the awesome guys from The Library Corporation! Thanks for the conversations and the invitation.


Douglas Hubbard‘s keynote "How to measure anything" was mind-blowing! One thing I learned: "We have more data than we think. And we need less data than we think!" And: We can measure whatever we want - as long as we know what we are talking about and why we want to measure it. I strongly recommend reading his book!

After this, Jim Benson delivered, once again, a very insightful (and quite weird) presentation about "Orwellian Management". I loved it, but I cannot summarize it.

Wrap Up

The conference was absolutely worthwile! I learned a lot, met a lot of interesting people and had a lot of fun! Special thanks to Naddel and Fridel!
LKNA14 will take place in San Francisco - I will be there!

And by the way, Chicago can be quite beautiful, especially at night:-)

Lean Kanban Central Europe

For all the Europeans who missed the Chicago event: Lean Kanban Central Europe 2013 takes place in Hamburg, Nov 4-5. A lot of great speakers already agreed to come. Check out the website!

P.S. If you understand German, you should also read Naddel‘s blog posts about the chicago conference!
P.P.S. If you are waiting for the videos from the conference: This year they are only available for attendees, sorry.

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