With the Kanban Method, we perceive our businesses as ecosystems of interconnected services.

Picture an organization as a network of services, even if they cross different parts of the company. This perception enables each service to grow and change independently based on what our customers really need.

So, customer needs and expectations spread throughout the whole company. By focusing on smaller changes in each service we have the potential to achieve tremendous improvements in our business operations.

Kanban is all about improving service delivery. It originated in Microsoft’s IT department in 2004, but its true potential in change management was recognized in 2007 when implemented at Corbis, Bill Gates’ photography archive and intellectual property rights management business.

The special thing about Kanban is that it focuses on gradual changes over time. And there are 3 principles of Kanban service delivery that every Kanban practitioner should embrace:

  1. Understand and focus on the customer’s needs and expectations.
  2. Manage the work; let workers self-organize around it.
  3. Regularly review the network and its policies to improve outcomes.

Let’s explore each of them in more detail.

The 3 Principles of Kanban Service Delivery

The 3 Principles of Kanban Service Delivery

The three principles of Kanban Service Delivery apply not just to one service but to the entire network of interdependent services within an organization. Let’s delve into each of them:

#1 Understand and Focus on the Customer’s Needs and Expectations

At its core, Kanban asks us to identify what needs improvement, why, and how we can adapt to ensure survivability, robustness, resilience, and adaptability.

Ultimately, it is the customers who decide whether our service is “fit for purpose.” And it is their satisfaction or dissatisfaction that should drive our need for improvement.

If we share the value of customer focus, there will be motivation for customer-focused changes. To get there, we must understand our customers’ needs and expectations and from there design a Kanban system that can meet them within our constraints and risk tolerance.

#2 Manage the Work; Let Workers Self-Organize Around It

In the 20th century, managing intangible goods in professional services was mainly about managing people and their time.

Kanban recognizes that only focusing on people and time overlooks the importance of managing work inventory and its flow.

By visualizing both tangible and intangible tasks, we can make decisions based on facts rather than guesses. This means setting limits for work-in-progress and adapting to uncertainties.

Just like managers in physical goods businesses don’t estimate task durations but manage the work, we should do the same for knowledge work.

Instead of managing people and time, we should manage the work and help workers understand our customers’ needs and goals. Visualizing the work on Kanban boards, we can adopt this customer-centric approach for better customer service.

#3 Regularly Review Your Network of Services and Its Policies to Improve Outcomes

Think of processes as sets of rules that outline how work should be done, who should do it, and in what order. We call these rules explicit process policies.

When we make these rules clear and open for discussion, they can be reviewed and improved. These rules balance different risks, and if we challenge and adjust them when needed, we can achieve better business outcomes.

A good example of explicit policies is Classes of Service. They guide how different types of work are handled based on their priority, aligning directly with what customers expect and need.

By embracing a policy-focused mindset instead of being too rigid about processes, you’ll be able to concentrate on the work itself and reduce resistance to change influenced by personal factors.

Here’s your action item: Start by understanding and focusing on your customers’ needs and expectations. Listen to their concerns, preferences, and pain points. Use this valuable information to adjust and tailor your Kanban system to better meet their requirements and deliver improved service.

By prioritizing your customers and aligning your approach with their needs, you’ll take a significant step towards enhancing your organization’s service delivery.

That’s it for today, my friend. Thanks for checking in with me. I’m excited to see you again next Thursday, same time and place, for more action-packed managerial insights. Bye for now!

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