Conferences, Kanban, Uncategorized

Kanban Leadership Retreat 2012

This year’s Kanban Leadership Retreat, #klrat, was an inspiring event with lots of great food and drinks in warm and beautiful Mayrhofen, Austria. Long breaks, fantastic people, great conversations and an exciting un-conference program created a perfect arena for learning. As last year, it was arranged and organized by David J. Anderson & Associates. Thanks for putting this excellent event together!

Amongst the many interesting topics were:

Kanban Katas, Visualization, Systemic Flow, Lean Startup, Portfolio Kanban, Change and Crossing the Chasm.

I will elaborate on some of these in what follows….

A Taste of something great

The trip to Mayrhofen turned out to be smooth one, thanks to Katrin Dietze who had been so kind to arrange with the shuttle bus from Munich airport to Mayrhofen. The 2 hour trip turned out to be a very enjoyable one indeed thanks to the great company of Håkan Forss and Lowell Lindstrom, two very knowledgable and friendly guys. The conversations we had during that trip was a perfect warm-up to the un-conference, the first of many learning opportunities. We continued the conversation through lunch in beautiful Mayrhofen where temperature had reached 37 degree Celcius!

Wiener schnitzel und Schnapps

One of the best things about these retreats is the long breaks in the afternoon. Having time off between 1230 and 1800 opens up quite a few possibilities. Thursday we were a group of 5 people (Jesper Boeg, Alisson Vale, Patrick Steyaert, Rick Simms and me) who went hiking and Friday Jesper, Rick, Yuval and I took one of the “famous” Cable Cars up the mountain to eat lunch. There were lots of great conversations during these long breaks and in the pub in the evenings. Not to mention nice food and drinks as well 🙂

Long breaks + Great people = Great conversations with lots of learning

The Agony of Choice

So one of the things with conferences, especially the good ones, are that you’re sure to miss out on a whole bunch of great sessions. So too in this case. Choosing sessions can be bloody hard and since nothing gets recorded you don’t have the option to watch it later. You can of course choose to be the bumble bee, some went for that strategy. But having chosen that strategy on previous events with mixed results, my strategy this time around was as follows:

Go for the smaller sessions (more energetic conversations) and keep options open as long as possible (yes, Real Options was heavily discussed in several of the excellent off-session conversations). Anyway, options expire, and since I obviously couldn’t make it to all sessions, I’m 100 % sure I missed out on several great sessions. At least that’s what I heard. The most notable one was probably Håkan Forss Kanban Kata session (inspired by Mike Rother’s excellent Toyota Kata book) which I really wanted to go to.

Looking back at some of the sessions

Among the sessions I did go to, I want to highlight the following ones:

Kata Recipes
Håkan’s session on Thursday morning was so good that he was volunteered to do a follow-up on the session by one of the groups in the planning session for day 2. Luckily, Håkan agreed to run the session as the final one Friday night. The goal of the session was to crank out a few Kanban Kata Recipes, to help teams get started with this very useful technique. Although the group wasn’t able to deliver this, I think the session could be a good starting point for future recipes. And although there were quite a few good insights during the conversation there is just something about doing stuff:

Practice trumps theory – Ash Maurya

And that’s what we did the last 30 minutes of the session. Gary Perkerwicz led us through an improvement and coaching kata. The vision for the Kata:

It should be easy for any team that wants to start a Kanban initiative to do so

Without getting into too much details: We managed to run through it, albeit more like the hare than the tortoise (but that’s due to the obvious time constraint of a session) Gary did an excellent job leading us through this exercise, plenty of great learning points during these last 30 minutes.

Systemic Flow & Rightshifting
In the first session on the last day of the conference, Ian Carroll hosted a really good and interesting session named Systemic Flow & Rightshifting. From a systems perspective, Ian showed us visualizations of the flow of work in 3 different companies, all web companies, size of IT-staff approximately the same. As the organizational complexity increases and thus the number of hand-offs, the lead time increases substantially. Not a big surprise really.

For me this became really interesting when Ian then moved on to map the three different organizations to the Marshall model, and the very interesting conversation that followed. Organizations with a synergistic mindset are high trust cultures, control is distributed to the people best equipped to take the right decisions. The benefits to this is substantial and too many to discuss here. You can read about the Marshall model here

Lean Startup & Kanban
I co-suggested this session with Ben Hogan and Nina Schwab . Being in a startup situation myself this was a highly relevant topic. Ben did a great job facilitating the session where the focus was on real Lean Startup stories with a special attention on the Kanban usage in startups. Renee Troughton, Nina and Henning Wolf all shared stories. I love real life practical stories, so this was a very valuable session for me.

3 days is too long for your first MVP – Henning Wolff

Kanban is not Just For IT
Alisson Vale hosted this session, guiding us through several visualizations in non-IT environments and showing the applicability of the Kanban Method outside IT. Alisson is very knowledgable and has a lot of experience from different environments. Many good insights in this session and I walked out with a few ideas to test out at my current client.

In my opinion #klrat was a huge success. It’ll be exciting to see where the retreat ends up next year. By looking at the votes in the retrospective on the final night it looked like Italy was a hot candidate. I wouldn’t mind going back to Mayrhofen either 🙂


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