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3 surprising things I learnt on the way to becoming an accredited Kanban trainer

It's funny how things turn out sometimes isn't it...?

Sitting in a room in 2018, as a student attending a Kanban system design course being run by the kanban queen Helen Meek, I had no idea that 5 years later I would be co-training the same course, alongside Helen.

Whilst this may seem a long lead time to some, my preference has always been to gain real-world experience as a practitioner before stepping into any coaching or training role. So although this took a while, I'm ok with that. You could say I sought evolutionary over revolutionary change 😉

Here's 3 surprising things I learnt along the way:

1. Visualising work has unfathomable value

There's unlimited ways to make work visible, from a hand full of post-it notes on your desk to a programme wall that's 10ft tall by 20ft wide, and everything in between.

Without doubt this has consistently been the thing that drives the most productive and useful conversations in my career to date.

When people can SEE bottlenecks, it removes opinion, emotion, and instead focusses on opportunities for improvements.

Even mapping out the most simple workflow leads to alignment, a shared narrative and provides insights that were previously hidden. This is no longer optional in my work.

If you're not visualising your own work, that of your team(s) or that of your organisation in some shape or form, this is a must have, quick win.

2. Take time, tell stories, and be a human.

Force only creates resistance. As a coach and a trainer, if we try to ram our way into organisations and tell them that we know better, or that "you're doing it wrong" don't forget to pick up your coat on the way out!

We need to have and demonstrate patience. To speak from experience and provide case studies and lived examples with humility, not hubris. To respect existing roles and processes, and to allow our students and clients to start where they are now.

People are paying for our skills and experience, so the more we rush or try to follow an agenda or script, the less human we become, and the less humane our approach.

3. (Almost) Anything is possible

With the right intention it really is possible to make lasting change happen through the kanban method. I've seen for myself:

  • Organisations moving away from annual budgets to more frequent funding cycles

  • Internal communities of practices driving significant cultural change

  • Flight level implementations improve clarity and alignment

  • Data and insights triggering effective decision making

  • Customer lead time being reduced

  • Flow being increased

  • Waste in processes being eliminated

It's been an incredible 5 years, that all started with a 3 day course; an awesome trainer with pearls of wisdom; and an intention to experiment and find out for myself how to make things better.

Special thanks to Reason for sponsoring my training, to Helen Meek for being an inspirational trainer and mentor, and to all the clients who put their trust in Reason and me to help move their organisations forward.


Are you an agile professional looking to start or to deepen your kanban journey? The Team Kanban Practitioner, or Kanban System Design certified course from the Kanban University is a great place to start.

If you're a leader in an organisation looking for lasting positive change, then let's have a conversation. I'd love to help.

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