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Kanban Leadership Retreat 2013

The crucial part of running a learning organization, and this is definitely one of key principle we live by in Lunar Logic, is actively looking for new ideas and new sources of inspiration. Of course we don’t shy away from adopting proven techniques or improve our current practices but to stay a cutting edge company we need fresh ideas every now and then. This is the fuel of our organizational evolution and as we know

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

– W.E. Deming

That’s why we’ve sent our whole management team (OK, it’s only me and Paul) to Kanban Leadership Retreat. For those of you unfamiliar with the event it’s an unconference for leaders of Lean Kanban community that is held twice a year. You can find my impressions after the first edition here.

The unconference format is tricky. I’ve seen many of such events going terribly wrong, failing to attract enough people or deliver value for those who attend. Not this time. Kanban Leadership Retreat (or klrat) is a safe bet. One can be 100% sure that the right people will show up.

And when I say the right people I mean that you can learn from every single attendee. Virtually everyone. People would bring their own unique experiences to find patterns or coherence with the experience of others. They’d share their genuine ideas to validate them or bring them to a new level. There’s no default assumption that someone is right and there’s agreement to disagreement.

If it wasn’t enough you’d meet people like Troy Magennis who’d blow your head out in 15 minutes showing you how your assumptions on e.g. estimation are totally wrong. And it’s not only a chance to sit on Troy’s session. It’s a chance to spend hours with him discussing your own context and problems.

You’d meet awesome fellows from TLC (probably the only company on planet Earth that could steal me from Lunar right now): Jabe Bloom and Simon Marcus. It’s a chance to exchange experiences with other people sharing your mindset who also work in the trenches and aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty.

You’d have a chance to bounce off your ideas of people are interested in the same subjects as you are. In my case this role was neatly played by Andy Carmichael (among others) as he shares my passion toward Portfolio Kanban.

Finally, you’d be able to challenge the very leaders of the community whenever your experience is not aligned with the concepts they share.

After two days I’m coming home with better understanding how we should manage work in our context, whole set of new ideas around Portfolio Kanban, a handful of experiments to try out, especially around estimates, and even more ideas that will influence the way we work. A short version is: my mind has been blown away.

This is why every senior manager who cares about evolving their organization should be there. If they have a chance, that is. Don’t forget that Kanban Leadership Retreat is limited to 50 people, which is one of the reasons of its high quality.

I just don’t know whether I should be happy or sad seeing how few company leaders care to learn on that level. I mean, this is a clear competitive advantage we do have. We understand how the work gets done and what it takes to be effective and build trust with our clients. Interestingly enough it seems that such an approach is very rare in our industry.

At the same time I feel for all the people stuck in the common ways of building software. Clients wasting their money on ineffective work, having limited visibility what is happening in their projects and getting low-quality products. Vendors building the wrong stuff, being squeezed to work overtime as they can’t keep their promises, compromising quality of their work and their own pride in workmanship. That’s just sad. Yet oh so common.

It won’t change unless we go out of our boxes to see what is happening in management methods. It won’t change unless we move ourselves out of our comfort zones of “we are unique.” It won’t change unless we invest enough effort into learning new things.

Kanban Leadership Retreat is the event where you can do all of that (and more). All the learning that I experience there helps to bring me as a leader and the company to another level.

This is why I wouldn’t hesitate a second to sign up for the next year retreat if only was an option to do so. Neither should you if you have a chance to be there next year.

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