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Klaus zu Gast beim BA-Podcast


Kanban kann man vielfältig einsetzen, das wissen wir schon aber auch in der Welt der Business Analyse? Ja auch dort ist die eindeutige Antwort. Klaus Leopold war im Januar zu Gast beim Business Analyse Podcast und es wurde ausführlich über Kanban geplaudert: Was ist Kanban eigentlich? Wo liegt der Unterschied zwischen Personal Kanban und Kanban? Was sind die Flight Levels von Kanban? Gibt es auch Tools? Wie startet man am besten? Und natürlich – wie können Business Analysten von Kanban profitieren?

Also – reinhören ist die Devise!

Zum Podcast inklusive Show Notes >

The iceberg of change

My blogpost, “Do I have to do that? Can I do that? Do I want to do that?” was about these three questions asked by all involved in a change process. Not surprisingly the answers are rarely purely rational in nature but also involve emotions to a great extent. That is simply the ways things are when human beings are involved. And the illustration of the iceberg of change shows this very clearly:

The image shows that the substantive reasons for change, conveying strategies and objectives or the representation of a project plan usually only make for a fraction of what starts moving during intensive phases of change. The fact that many change projects are shipwrecked can be attributed to the fact that these projects are often focused only on the surface of the issue.  And also due to the fact that the focus is restricted on account of poor communication between the captain, the officers and crew. However, should a change initiative only encompass the infamous tip of the iceberg, one need not be surprised if the Titanic of change goes under.

Be it the much quoted seventh of the iceberg we are seeing or a little more or less is of no consequence – the fact is that by far the largest part lies beneath the surface of pure rationale. The advantage that proponents of change have over the captain of a ship is the fact that large parts of the iceberg can suddenly emerge, become visible and wait to be dealt with – ignoring them won’t make them go away.

Emotions in the change process

As I already mentioned in the blog post “Do I have to do that? Can I do that? Do I want to do that?” organizational change is inseparably linked to personal emotions. These emotions should be regarded as the elixir of life for any change. They release energy, they attribute meaning, they force progress. In our book, ‘Kanban in IT’ (to appear in English soon), Sigi Kaltenecker and I devoted a whole chapter to emotions in the change process. In this article I want to provide a little insight into a very broad theme.

The consultant team, Barbara Heitger and Alexander Doujak, in their book “Die Logik der Gefühle und die Macht der Zahlen“ (The logic of feelings and the power of figures) describe four categories of feelings which typically arise during the change process:

  • Insecurity, concern, fear are particularly prevalent in the first phase of the change curve.
  • Frustration and aggression are the determining feelings in the second phase of the typical change process.
  • Sadness and disappointment mark the phase of ‘‘emotional acceptance“.
  • Optimism, joy and courage blend with recognition, intensive practice and integration in the change process.

Insecurity, concern, fear

In practice such feelings neither are clearly sorted nor are they unadulterated. What uncertainty, what concern and what fear are, usually cannot be exactly determined in daily life. In addition, these feelings are often hidden. Since insecurity or fear cause vulnerability, these feelings are – particularly among men – presented in the crude form of aggression. On the other hand, the feelings are hidden plainly and simply by the fact that they are suppressed. In addition to struggle and aggression, avoidance and ignorance are equally good ways of dealing with unpleasant feelings.

The American organizational scientist, Edgar H. Schein, showed in his book “Organizational Culture and Leadership” that in change processes two particular forms of fear arise, existential angst and fear of learning. Both fears have very different origins.

In the case of existential angst the issues are

  • The threat of a loss of status: “Tomorrow I will no longer be a manager”,
  • The devaluation of one’s own expertise: “Tomorrow all my experience as a project manager will no longer count”,
  • The threat of the disappearance of the trusted environment: “Tomorrow I will be working in a completely new team”.

In the course of learning fears will be evoked both by the necessary acquisition of new skills or areas of knowledge as well as by the equally necessary unlearning of the old. Fears such as

  • Of temporary or permanent incompetence: “I simply cannot do it”,
  • On account of incompetence, having to expect punishment or at least disadvantages: “If I don’t hack it, I will lose my position”,
  • Of  suffering a personal loss of identity: “My life long I have been a development specialist, why now should I have to analyse or test?”,
  • Of no longer being a member of a certain group or community: “What will happen if in my specialist area I lose the rapport to my colleagues?”

For these reasons it is important to realize that change processes involve not only learning something new but also unlearning the old.

Frustration and aggression

It is common knowledge that one does not have to flee from threats – you can confront them and conquer them. Anger and aggression are established means of doing so. If in the context of information events loud boos resound when the team leader on the jour fixe is accused of treason, or when in the coffee corner one hears nothing but curses about “those up there”, we are already in the middle of the issue. It’s about setting boundaries. Personal identity must be maintained and anything threatening must be kept in check. Anger and aggression play an important role in the context of profound change processes and these need to be accepted and endured. People have to let off steam to make room for the new. Thunderstorms are known to have a cleansing  function – provided you provide a good lightning conductor, not least in the form of professional support from experienced change facilitators.

Sadness and disappointment

Sadness helps to let certain things go and to put then behind us. Before we can look forward to the future, our present is dominated by different colored images in our memory. These images of mourning, like frustration or aggression, must find expression.

Optimism, joy and courage 

If what are experienced as negative feelings such as fear, frustration or sadness are processed well, they leave room for positive experiences. Often there is a surprising openness to change once the past is really let go. Energy can now focus on learning, on practicing improved processes and integrating modified working methods. Old strengths are accessed in new contexts, the tried and tested appears in a new form. A true reconciliation takes place, a bridge between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

What now?

To bring changes on track, it is imperative to understand these emotions properly. Only a profound knowledge of the different forms, dynamics and functions of emotions can form the basis for promising change management. However, beware of control illusions. Emotions arise neither in a uniform way or at the same time. They need different amounts of time, space and attention. They are not predictable. And there is no magical solution to eliminate all emotional challenges. Nevertheless, change management cannot avoid addressing emotions. Because without emotional mobilization no change initiative can progress.

Why Kanban Flight Levels?

The world is a model richer: Kanban flight levels. I really do not believe that it has been waiting with bated breath for someone to summarise Kanban applications but it has been shown that the model can make the life of a Kanban proponent a little easier. You can find a more detailed explanation of it in my blog post “Kanban and its flight levels“.

How did the flight levels model come about in any case? I was contacted constantly by companies who formulated their wish something like this: “We would like to introduce Kanban to improve our team performance.“ To tell you the truth I was often a little confused and wondered why the whole world had decided to improve team performance. But it did not take long until I found out that the whole thing was a major misunderstanding of what Kanban was really about: Many people assume that Kanban is a team-focused approach like some Agile methodologies. But it is not!

Kanban does not focus on teams

The core of Kanban comprises four principles and six practises. Neither in the principles nor in the practices is it written that they are applied to teams. David Anderson even quite specifically says that with Kanban he always has in mind optimizing the service delivery along the value chain and never the improvement of individual teams. Nevertheless, one can of course also use Kanban excellently at a team level. However, it is essential to understand that Kanban does not focus on teams and that there’s other space for Kanban in an organizational context. Maybe you are simply not harnessing a great potential, which I think you would agree would be a great shame?

To make understandable the potential of Flight Level 3 – optimisation of the value stream or service delivery –  I like to use the analogy of a keyboard: Let us suppose our company is a keyboard and each team is in charge of one single key, as illustrated in the following figure:

So now along comes our client and wants us to write a love letter for him. Of course, now the “A Team” can optimize as long as it wants with Kanban until it sets a new record for the Guinness Book of Records for hitting the “A” key. However, the letter will not be completed any quicker through this. When it comes to writing a letter, it is logically not so important that you can use a single key super fast. It is much more important that the right key is pressed at the right time to ensure a real increase in performance. Applied to the real business world, you can conclude that it is not only a matter of increasing the performance of individual teams but that much more performance enhancement is achieved through optimizing the interaction between the individual teams.

Flight Levels is a communication model

Using this image you can communicate in a few minutes that it makes a lot of sense to use Kanban far and above team boundaries. And here we are at the core of the Kanban flight level model: it is a matter of communicating where Kanban can be applied in the company. In LEANability we use the model especially in the initial clarification to find for our clients the best possible starting point for the Kanban change initiative and to find out how Kanban can spread further within the company. It is important to understand that the individual flight levels do not build upon each other. You can launch Kanban on each flight level and in most companies you will notice the presence of several flight levels. With each flight level you can address other problems in a company and the model helps you get this message across.