Interview with David J Anderson

David J Anderson – a business leader, author, trainer, public speaker and originator of The Kanban Method and Enterprise Services Planning.

It does not end here. David is equally a wonderful person who never failed to amaze me during the last two years of association for Lean Kanban India  conference, which is a part of the global Lean Kanban conference series.

I am excited to present our recent conversation with David J Anderson about Kanban, its benefits and contributions of Lean Kanban India Conference.

Q1. What do you see are some of the key benefits that Kanban adopters get?

David: Improved transparency, visibility, collaboration, greater trust, greater empathy, faster delivery, greater predictability, and relief from over-burdening leading to improved quality.

Q2. What are some of the success factors in helping customers ensure that they do get these benefits?

David: Proper education whether from books, videos or training classes – it isn’t just sticky notes on a wall. They need to understand STATIK – the systems thinking approach to implementing Kanban – together with work item type definitions, class of service definitions, and the Kanban Cadences.

Q3. How do you see the Kanban method evolve over the next couple of years?

David: We are seeing a lot of innovation in upstream Kanban for product management and discovery of ideas. I expect to see more development in Portfolio Kanban. And our main focus is improving enterprise scale adoption at the scale of 10s of thousands of people using Enterprise Services Planning, particularly dynamic reservation systems, risk assessment and profiling, demand shaping and triage capabilities.

Q4. Can Kanban be adopted across teams and organisation level?

David: There are Kanban implementations exceeding 5000 people and by end of 2017 we expect to have implementations exceeding 50,000 people. We’ve seen individual Kanban boards with up to 75 people and networks of Kanban systems across entire product or business units from 150 to 600+ people.

Q5. How should performance appraisal systems change when teams use Kanban?

David: Performance appraisal should be based on observable outcomes such as customer satisfaction and fitness for purpose of any given service in which an individual is working. Individual metrics should be based on how an individual can contribute directly to overall system improvement, so measuring local cycle time for activities, coupled to defect or rework rates, together with system liquidity metrics such as “immediacy” (how long items wait before being worked on at any given step in a workflow), would be ways of measuring whether individuals are making useful system contributions. Liquidity should improve with staff training and hence investment in training should reflect in improved immediacy as well as shorter local cycle times and higher quality.

Q6. What’s a good litmus test for teams to confirm that they are using Kanban right?

David: We have the Kanban Litmus test; Since you adopted Kanban;

  1. Have managers changed their behaviour?
  2. Has the customer interface changed?
  3. Has the customer contract changed?
  4. Has the service delivery business model changed?

If people have truly embraced Kanban then all 4 of these things should have changed: managers should be focused on work and workflow, not individuals, task assignment and utilization; customers should be attending replenishment meetings and making commitments to work items to fill free Kanban slots; the customer promise should be managed with an SLA which aggregates risk and their shouldn’t be individual commitments with specific promises on individual requests; and classes of service based on urgency, cost of delay and other business risks should enable work to be treated differently by class rather than homogeneously.

Q7. How do you think Lean Kanban India conference is contributing to the Kanban world of change?

David: Lean Kanban India is attracting top international speakers and has a world class program. It is serving a role of raising awareness within the Indian market and providing Indians with access to new techniques and concepts that they would not be able to get anywhere else. Agile conferences do not cover Kanban or if they do it is shallow superficial coverage that fails to communicate the breadth and depth and the great economic value to be obtained from fully embracing the Kanban Method and Enterprise Services Planning.

Q8. How is your experience working with INNOVATION ROOTS as organisers of Lean Kanban India conference?

David: INNOVATION ROOTS has been a good partner for us and together with Digite has provided an event that has embraced our brand values and represented the Kanban Method admirably in the Indian market.



David J Anderson is a thought leader in managing effective teams. He leads a consulting, training and publishing and event planning business dedicated to developing, promoting and implementing sustainable evolutionary approaches for management of knowledge workers. He has 30+ years experience in the high technology industry starting with computer games in the early 1980’s. He has led software teams delivering superior productivity and quality using innovative agile methods at large companies such as Sprint and Motorola. David is the pioneer of the Kanban Method, an approach to evolutionary to improvement, and Enterprise Services Planning, a system of management for modern businesses operating in complex environments.