Becoming a Learning Organisation the Kanban Way

Karl Scotland

In a world of Big Bang Disruption, the need for learning organisations is greater than ever. Businesses need to develop people so they are able to continuously solve new problems, rather than focussing on implementing solutions to previous problems. 

This session will explore how heuristics can be used to enable this problem solving capability. I will introduce the Kanban Canvas, with a set questions which can be used to encourage creative thinking from multiple perspectives, from understanding the problems, to imagining the desired impacts and then designing potential interventions.

--> Prezi

More than the Sum of our Parts

Liz Keogh

Human beings love predictability. We love being able to take a machine to pieces, put it back together again and know exactly how it behaves. We also know that doing this to complex systems doesn't work. Human Systems, particularly, are made up of more than just the people in them and the work that those people are doing. People and their projects are more than the sum of their parts... but what actually makes up the rest? Why is focusing on individuals within the system so damaging? Why does planning using small tasks always go awry? And what should we be doing instead?


In this talk Liz shares her experiences on context and relationships, showing how they can change a system entirely, why they always move and will never be predictable, and how, in the face of this unpredictability, we can help leadership and innovation to emerge.

--> Slides

STATIk - Kanban's Hidden Gem

Mike Burrows

In this session we explore STATIK, a tool well used and evolved over the years, but not often described! At its most basic, it is a repeatable way to implement kanban systems. More interestingly, it is a way to generate and structure improvements to existing systems, to reinvigorate ad-hoc implementations, and a way to reconnect with organisational concerns such as purpose, scope, and agreement.

--> Slides

Rethinking Robustness – Uncertainty is Not the EnemY (Keynote)

Don Reinertsen

We spend a lot of time in product development trying to minimize uncertainty and its negative consequences. We push people to do careful estimates; we adopt Six Sigma programs to reduce variability; we conceal uncertainty by padding estimates and using buffers. We strive to protect our carefully designed plans from the hostile assaults of a random and uncaring universe. We celebrate robust solutions that remain imperturbable in the face of variability. In reality, this robustness can come at high cost: it can make our projects slower, less efficient, and ultimately less successful. What would happen if our goal was to thrive in the presence of uncertainty, instead of just trying to survive it? How would we design and operate development processes if we wanted to get the best outcomes precisely when uncertainty was highest? In this keynote, Don Reinertsen will present a different perspective on development process design.

--> Slides

Blockades - Treasures of improvements

Klaus Leopold and Troy Magennis

A central component of Kanban is to make invisible knowledge work visible. However, you will notice quite often that you very often cannot work, but are blocked. Waiting for the test environment, requirements unclear, or missing customer information are only a small part of blockages that prevent us from continuing to work. These blockages are in most cases not a singular event, but have a systemic cause. In other words, it is very unlikely that a blockage occurs only once in the history of a company. Normally the same blockage occurs again and again.

What can one do about it? Jumping out of the window in despair would be a possible approach. Another idea would be to see the blockages for what they are: Treasures of improvements. In this session, we show you how to harvest these treasures and to improve sustainably your working system. In addition, we will present a model that shows with the help of a few simple number games, which blockages need to be removed to achieve the greatest possible leverage.

--> Slides

The law of learning entropy

Marcin Floryan

You are a developer, a manager, coach, maybe a ScrumMaster,... the bottom line is - you work with software. You're coming to the conference because you recognise the importance of keeping up to date, to meet people, grow your network, share knowledge... I often hear people come because they want to learn new stuff. Great! Our industry is increasingly recognising the value of continuous learning, we talk about building learning organisations and describe software development as knowledge discovery process. Yet, partly thanks to the ultrasuperpower of our cognitive biases, we create an illusion of learning where there actually is no learning. We need learning organisations and they start with learning individuals and more often than not we fail at this first hurdle.
Join me to explore some common misconceptions about learning, discover examples of failures to learn at a grand scale and what we can all do, as individuals, to make sure that the permanent bombardment of our sensory inputs results in meaningful connections in our neural networks.

--> Slides

"What's the worst that can happen?" - Enabling authentic trust at work

Marc Burgauer

Trust is the metric that best reflects the quality of our relationships and of our social connections. Without trust, organisational improvements efforts cannot flourish. We reliably find the absence of trust is the cause for teams failing to adopt agile or lean practices successfully. How can trust be developed to support successful adoption?

We're physically hardwired for connection. Rejection hurts. We get meaning and validation where connection allows us to be authentic. Yet we exist in environments that routinely inform us, that what we do and who we are, is not "Good Enough". We are shamed into conformity (often masqueraded as improvement) and blamed for failures.

"Management, in most of its incarnations, is an institutionalized form of distrust" say Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores.

This talk explores how we can remain authentic in a blame culture; how we can build authentic trust and enable safe-to-fail environments to strengthen our connections, as well as my own experience applying these practices.

--> Slides

Beyond VSM?: Understanding and Mapping Your Process of Knowledge Discovery

Alexei Zheglov

The process of delivering value in creative industries is primarily about information arrival and knowledge creation. But, when creating Kanban boards, we are still influenced by value stream mapping. This often leads to visualizations still showing how a piece of work moves between workers or organization units as if they were machines on an assembly line. Sometimes workers toss a work item back and forth like a hot potato. 


This session proposes an alternative: visualize the process as accumulation of knowledge, find which activities dominate it at each phase, and model processes as sequences of dominant activities.  Between those activities are not hand-offs, but changes of activities and collaboration patterns.  Speaking from experience, I will show examples of such process maps not only from software engineering, but also from entrepreneurship, marketing, training, documentation and other fields.


The new “beyond VSM” approach integrates easily with STATIK (systems thinking approach to introducing Kanban): understand what services are being delivered and visualize the sequence of dominant activities for each service.  I will share stories and give pragmatic guidance on bringing groups of people together to explore their processes.  The result is the effective Kanban visualization practice: easy-to-use boards, showing how the work is actually done, having fewer back-flows, avoiding inertia and stimulating improvement and collaboration.

--> Slides

Leadership on All Levels

Esther Derby

Traditional definitions of leadership emphasize position, formal authority and power, vision, heroics. Those definitions might have been sufficient in another time. Organizations that need to respond to a fast-changing environment and desire continuous improvement require a different kind of leadership and a different kind of leader. Lean and agile organizations need leaders who have “the ability to enhance the environment, so that everyone is empowered to contribute creatively to solving the problem(s)” (Gerald M. Weinberg). In this talk, I’ll explore what that means, and how you can be a leader at any level.

--> Slides

You don't become Olympic Champion in One Day 

Eric-Jan Kaak

I want to show you how we became the first lean ski-manufacturer in the world and what we learned along this journey. How did the implementation of Lean Production principles in a traditional production environment influenced the implementation of Lean Change Principles on a broader scale. What can we learn from the "physical lean" world and its guiding principles for knowledge work and how does implementation in knowledge work streams back into the production world. Are there 2 separate worlds or are we looking at the same things from different angles? What is the difference between KANBAN and kanban?

It all starts with people as Fujio Cho (Chairman of Toyota once said): "Many good American companies have respect for individuals, and practice kaizen and other [lean] tools. But what is important is having all the elements together as a system. It must be practiced every day in a very consistent manner…"

--> Slides

Participatory Decision Making - beyond majority voting

Lightning Talk (10 min)

Stefan Roock

Agile and lean product development is based on pull and self-organized teams. In this context participatory decision making becomes essential. Good participatory decision making is more than just a majority voting and becomes a special challenge when it has to be scaled to more than one team. The short talk discusses the concept of consultative individual decision and shares the experiences we made at out clients and at it-agile. Project Managers and Line Managers can make use of consultative individual decisions to reduce their workload while enhancing participation and self-organization at the same time.

--> Slides

Discovering Hidden Knowledge

Chris Young and James McLeod

This talk takes the form of a dialogue between a Manager, new to a company, and Senior members of the team the manager joined. The manager thought he was doing ‘the right thing’ - visualising the work, using this to identify bottlenecks, moving people to the bottleneck to alleviate it. In doing so he didn’t see that he was treading on the toes of the people who had got the work to where it was in the first place. This lead to a crisis meeting which brought the whole team together to talk about hitherto unspoken, hidden, problems and agree a way forward. The talk will draw on the direct experience of the speakers to reflect on the difficulties encountered, how they were overcome, what was learned, and how the whole team went on to work better together.

We will talk about:

- How to look beyond your models, both mental and visual to see what’s really happening
- Getting buy in by making a collective model
- Role Confusion, how to spot it and how to stop it.
- How this confusion affects both individuals in Cross Functional Teams and the way teams work together.
- How visualisations of the work identified Goal Confusion and how we addressed that.
- How Goals of individuals play along side the Goals of the Work
- How we use queue length as a trigger for intervention and direction.
- Applying Batch Size and Transactional Cost to Communications between individuals and teams

We will share artefacts and data from our work, Story Maps, Impact Maps, Cumulative Flow Diagrams, Kanban Boards and so on.

More importantly, we will share our experience, the highs, the lows and the in betweens which we hope will resonate with the audience and help them in their work.

--> Slides

An Evolutionary Approach to Agile

Jon Terry

Many project professionals see the growing demand in organizations for an agile approach to project management. But introducing Agile to a traditional organization can be a revolutionary process, with a high risk of failure if conditions aren't right for adoption. In this session, we'll show you how to use the language of Lean (from Lean Manufacturing) and evolutionary change to introduce Agile to your organization, and achieve the promised benefits of Agile "one step at a time".


Introducing Kanban as Instrument of Change – a Journey of learning

Cliff Hazell and Amjid Ali

The law of insanity quoted by Einstein serves as basis for this session. It suggests that in the new paradigm, we should instil a novel approach when we desire different results. This talk strives to provide insight in the form of a reflective journey on an organisational change initiative we started 12 months ago. We will look at how we went about introducing change, the adoption challenges we experienced, where creative solutions as collective came to play and the introduction of metrics as success measures. 


The scene is set as we were tasked with implementing an initiative to improve the environment and work flow within a division of Momentum, one of the largest insurers in Southern Africa. As the story enfolds, it reveals sometimes surprising results, our learnings about people and organisations, the mistakes we made and what this all taught us.

Discovery Kanban, Serving existing customers while unlocking new sources of growth

Patrick Steyaert

Evolutionary methods like Lean startup and The Kanban Method have the potential to fundamentally change the way organizations work. Lean startup encourages a culture of entrepreneurship; The Kanban Method fosters a learning and improvement culture to become excellent in serving (existing) customers. In today’s highly competitive and increasingly dynamic business landscape, organizations are certainly in need for both. Recent failures of large and small organizations, for example, have shown that a single focus on serving existing customers can turn into a monkey trap (aka “the Kodak moment”).

It is clear that an entrepreneurial culture for unlocking new sources of revenue needs to go hand in hand with a service-oriented culture of excellence in serving existing customers; and vice versa. It is equally clear that this requires a change in management discipline that proves challenging for most organizations. Moving from single strategy (existing customers OR new sources of growth) to dual strategy (existing customers AND new sources of growth) requires an increased ability to deal with ambiguity and complex trade-offs, recognition of the importance of diversity, and an increased need for ambidexterity.

Discovery Kanban is an evolutionary change approach that combines Lean startup and The Kanban Method to foster a management discipline of dual strategies. It draws on real options theory, Boyd’s O-O-D-A loops, Deming’s PDCA, and complexity thinking. In this presentation we will elaborate on the core principles of Discovery Kanban and some practical examples. We will show how (traditional) delivery and Discovery Kanban are similar but different. We will discuss several examples of kanban systems based on dual strategies and how they catalyze change in the organization.

--> Slides

How to Convince Others to Limit WIP

Jim Benson

Limiting WIP is the cornerstone of kanban. It's not easy. It freaks people out. It's counter-intuitive and when we argue for it, we sound like religious converts. Limiting WIP is hard enough, but selling it can be nearly impossible. Jim Benson will discuss why we want Limit WIP in the first place and provide some tricks to sell Limiting WIP and to get people to do it before they realize it.

--> Slides

The Leadership Gap

Pawel Brodzinski
I often hear complaints that we don’t have enough great leaders in our organizations.

If, as Jerry Weinberg points, leadership is a process of creating an environment where people become empowered let’s focus on how we create and evolve environments we work at.

One issue is the system. W. Edwards Deming famously said that a bad system will defeat a good person every time. Then we should discuss how we build our teams and how it contributes to our goals. Finally, we have organizational culture that is blood of every company and influence all behaviors.

All these bits are inseparably interconnected thus if we want to create an environment where leadership thrives we need to take all of them into account.
Let’s take a look at how these ideas may be applied in practice. In Lunar Logic eventually but inevitably everyone becomes a leader. We simply pay attention to how the organization is designed in a broader context. That’s the story I will share.

After all, there's no shortage of leaders, only a shortage of companies that let leadership emerge.
--> Slides

Managing in Lean/Agile Environments – Navigating Politics

Katherine Kirk

Have you ever wondered why, sometimes, when you start a Lean/Agile initiative, the surrounding politics in the company sometimes escalate rather than decrease? Have you ever sat there in meetings frustrated and exasperated at the seemingly unnecessary dramatics some participants go through? Or perhaps you are struggling with some team members who just can’t seem to drop the politics and adapt to ‘this different way of working’ … 

What’s going on? Why doesn't pure data, logic, transparency and collaboration always work on the management side? What does this mean for the role of the manager?


In order to explore new insights as to why this happens and what we can do about it, in this talk, Katherine draws on eastern and tribal philosophy to ‘kick off’ different thinking and find practical and realistic ways that managers can deal positively with destructive politics and/or prevent scenarios like these from even happening in the first place.

--> Slides

Lean Management of the fuzzy front end

Markus Andrezak

Imagine that you, as a Lean Manager, get the task of discovering new products, services or businesses for your company. Now, of course, you also want to apply everything you know about Lean. But, what does it mean to discover new options in Lean? What does ‚Limiting Wip‘ mean, when you don’t have a clear idea what the next step will be? What does ‚eliminate waste‘ mean, when in research and exploration you can not know where a valuable idea (value) will come up and where not? The problem is, that in the world of Design, research and product exploration, we can not apply the popular mechanics of Lean, but have to go a level deeper. we have to apply the more general principles of Lean and first understand the nature of this type of work. Doing so, will lead to counter intuitive consequences for the Lean Manager. This talk will examine this deeper and come up with updated tasks for modern management in the Lean Fuzzy Front end of product development.

--> Slides

The Management principles behind Jimdo’s success

Fridtjof Detzner
Culture is everything. Focusing on staying true to your company culture should be your priority right from the start; this will help you find the right people as your company expands. But a larger team leads to larger management challenges, often dealt with by adding procedures and protocols to follow. This may seem to fix the problems at first, but ultimately this is something that will kill your culture. So how do you ensure your company’s productivity and efficiency without compromising on culture?  This is what Fridtjof Detzner will be exploring, explaining the principles he applies in leading Jimdo with his co-founders. Rather than describing tactics, methods, tools or practices, he will describe which principles tare behind what and how Jimdo does things. 
--> Slides

Evolve or Die: A3 Thinking and Popcorn Flow in Action

Claudio Perrone
The conditions found in many organisations can be very hostile to people who try to introduce change. Yet, improvement without change is impossible. 
And while these companies glorify and reward the unsustainable acts of very visible firefighters and autocratic leaders, they invariably expose themselves to disruption in the marketplace. But what if people discovered how to develop insanely good habits of thinking, learned how to prevent and eradicate problems, and managed to systematically bring to the surface not only what they accomplished, but also what they learned as they did it? 
Perhaps they would get the recognition they deserve and make meaningful progress in their lives and careers. In this session, Claudio will illustrate vivid examples of how A3 Thinking (a management approach originated from Toyota) and Popcorn Flow (a new Lean Change method he created) can bring "learning streams" to the surface, dramatically accelerate the rate of change through rapid experimentation, and form the conditions for teams and individuals to flourish and bring the best of their work to the world.
--> Slides

Value and Urgency: the power of quantifying the Cost of Delay

Joshua Arnold

Don Reinertsen says that if you only quantify one thing, quantify the Cost of Delay. This not only about improving prioritisation – it also helps with managing multiple stakeholders, enables the team to make vastly improved trade-off decisions, and changes the focus of the conversation.

When people hear about Cost of Delay they sometimes doubt whether their organisation is ready for it. They say things like, “We don’t have the maturity for it”, or “We couldn’t do that because our stakeholders wouldn’t support it”. We’ve heard people say this too. And yet, in hindsight, people find it much easier than they thought! We will show why Cost of Delay matters and how to get started with it, despite these doubts.

You will hear how quantifying Cost of Delay helps with:

  1. Managing multiple stakeholders.
  2. Surfacing assumptions about where the value is, and how time-sensitive that value is.
  3. Enabling the team to make better trade-off decisions
  4. Changing the focus of conversations: less about cost and dates, more about value and urgency.


Embracing Failure

Lightning Talk (10 min)

Tim Lossen

We like to pretend that "failure is not an option" -- but projects still fail. Looking at free-to-play mobile games for example, it is clear that most of them won't even manage to earn back their development costs. I will explain how we embrace this reality at Wooga, and have designed our whole project management process [1] around "failing fast".


--> Slides

The beauty of problems

Arne Roock

"I don‘t want to hear about problems. I want to hear about solutions!" We all know these cliché management phrases. And we all hate them.

Depending on your perspective, problems are much more than these annoying things you have to get rid of as soon as possible. With the Systems Thinking mindset they can be seen as the engine that drives improvements and develops personal skills within our company.

In this session I will talk about the beauty of problems, why we should invest a big amount of time in problem solving, why we should avoid "jumping to conclusions" and how the problem is never the problem.

--> Slides

Risk Management and Reliable Forecasting Using Un-Reliable Data

Troy Magennis

To meet expectations and optimize flow, managing risk is an important part of Kanban. Anticipating and adapting to things that "go wrong" and the uncertainty they cause is topic of this session. We look at techniques for quantifying what risks should be considered important to deal with. 

Although discouraging, forecasting size, effort, staff and cost is sometimes necessary. Of course we have to do as little of this as possible, but when we do, we have to do it well with the data we have available. Forecasting is made difficult by un-reliable information as inputs to our process – the amount of work is uncertain, the historical data we are basing our forecasts on is biased and tainted, the situation seems hopeless. But it isn't. Good decisions can be made on imperfect data, and this session discusses how. This session shows immediately usable and simple techniques to capture, analyze, cleanse and assess data, and then use that data for reliable forecasting.

Topics include:

  • Capturing Risk Factors
  • Understanding the Impact of Risk Factors
  • Capturing Reliable Data and Getting Others to “Willingly” Help
  • Cleaning Data from Errors and Filling the blanks
  • Analyzing Data Integrity and Knowing When It Is Wrong
  • Forecasting With Noisy Data

--> Slides

Manage as Design

Jabe Bloom

Software Design and Engineering remain constrained by mismatched management models and precepts, rooted in antiquated conceptions of physical and mental work. As cycle times accelerate and abstractions encapsulate knowledge, we must begin to reconceive how management can evolve to become more effective and productive, beyond current notions of oversight, control, assessment, and impediment removal.

How is it that we can relate our intentions and actions to an uncertain, rapidly changing set of potential futures? How can we resolve our issues with the problems inherent in expertise and functional alignment, so that we can improve flow of information and value through our businesses?
Design is a way of ensuring agency in the face of increasing complexity uncertainty and ambiguity
-Simon Grand

In this talk Jabe Bloom will focus on using design methods and metaphors to better understand, discuss, model and manage human systems that produce and consume knowledge.
--> Slides

Culture is THE competetive advantage

Martin Jensen

In a highly competitive market reality were all else is equal; process, structures, products and prices, culture is THE last competitive advantage. That advantage separates a normal store from a successful store, drycleaner, bank, kebab place or in the case of Zappos from any other shoe retailer online. Last years LKCE stated “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, to which we smiled gently and agreed but most of us are left with the question how is that done? Why does the traditional company’s culture programs don’t work and do we need a charismatic CEO or committed owner slash front figure like Jobs or Ingvar Kamprad? I want to share some learning’s, pictures and thought on how this can be done in a more “normal” circumstance and even in big legacy organizations, agile or not.

The Promise and Perils of Statistical Control and Variation (Panel)

Moderator: Jabe Bloom

In this panel, Jabe Bloom will lead a discussion with world recognized experts on questions like; What is the role of statistical control in knowledge work? How does variation, and attempts to control for it, impact the quality of our work?

Panelists: Troy Magennis, Don Reinertsen, Jim Bensen

--> Slides

The power of Expectations

Andrea Provaglio

Leaders and managers involved in any kind of organizational change, huge or tiny, have expectations about the outcomes. But are these expectations aligned with the current organizational culture? If there were, the chances of success would be greater, but how can you really know? And what can you do to generate this kind of alignment so that your effects will be positive on the strategic and business level? That's what we'll be talking about, the power challenging your own expectations.

--> Slides

By the Power of Metrics

Wolfgang Wiedenroth

At least three practices of the Kanban Methods imply to use metrics. It does so, because metrics can be powerful tools. Sadly most Kanban Systems don’t make use of them and miss out on a big chance to make things easier. Because metrics can help us with lots of different things we encounter in our business world like finishing projects in budget and time, fighting for survival in the market, and continuous change in order to adapt in this complex world. Learn how metrics can help you and how to choose the right metric for your situation.

--> Slides

Kanban Practices Applied outside of IT

Florian Eisenberg

“Can we do that outside of IT, too?” - I get this question quite a lot when introducing Kanban. And I have been telling them: Yes, of course you can! It really just is knowledge work that you’re managing. But had I really applied this in a real scenario outside of IT? Not really.


So we found one of the biggest projects we have and tested it on ourselves: Lean Kanban Central Europe 2014. Organizing LKCE really is quite a project: Up to 300 Participants, 32 speakers, sponsors, a big location and many ideas for improvement. We took on the task and applied the Kanban practices to finish this project on time and on scope. I would like to tell you the story of this conference and what we used to support our decision making, planning, and coordination.

--> Slides

Scaling Kanban

Klaus Leopold

Scalability is currently a big topic in the agile world. Most agile methods and practices often reach their limits when one wants to “agilize" more than a few teams, let alone one wants to achieve real agile collaboration of several hundert people.


The main problem is that many agile methods focus on the team. Kanban follows a completely different path - Kanban is not a team method! Kanban is a management method which focuses on generating value. "Manage work and not workers" is one of the key messages of the Lean Kanban management philosophy. Therefore, scalability is not a real topic within Kanban: if you focus on value generation of work, scaling Kanban simple means doing more Kanban - it’s inherent scalable.


In this session I show how one could use Kanban at scale. Besides the general schematic explanation I will also show a case study where Kanban is used to coordinate work of more than 200 people.

--> Slides

Please, be social

Our Tweets