Respect and Kanban

The value of Respect in Kanban starts as soon as you decide to implement Kanban under the Principle “Start with what you do now”. This first principle is all about respecting and understanding what you have today, and how you ended up there. Too often change programs ignore a critical element – understanding and respect what got the organisation to where it is now. The change agents drive forward without giving respect to history.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana – The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress

Part of “Start with what you do now” is to “Respect existing roles & responsibilities and job titles“. By respecting the people in the organisation their abilities, qualities, and achievements, you begin to bring them on the change journey from day one. Nothing can disengage employees faster than someone new arriving who disrespects them.

Respecting where we’ve come from helps point your change program in the right direction it also lays the foundation for so much more.

Respecting people helps deliver trust in you and your program. Let’s not forget that trust is an expectation or belief that one can rely on another person’s actions and words and/or that the person has intentions towards oneself. Gaining the trust and respect of people is important at the start of a transformation program.

Respect by all is needed throughout the entire Kanban process.

Team members will need to respect early versions of WIP Limits, Policies and the Definition of Done. All of these will probably be “wrong” when you first start out on your Kanban journey. As a team, you will need to reflect and improve these aspects of your Kanban board.

The team will need to respect each other as they go through the reflection processes. Often it is a good idea to start your first reflection meeting by creating a blameless safe environment. Opening remarks such as Norman Kerth’s Retrospective Prime Directive:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

I note using this directive every single retrospective has some serious flaws. For a new team starting their journey, providing them with the idea that retrospectives should be a safe place to discuss – how the performed in a respectful, open and honest manner is a good idea. This is especially true if you are working with non technical teams who have never experienced the many agile ceremonies.

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