Collaborwocky #3: The 7 Elements of Humane Management

May 28
Jim Benson: Welcome to episode 3 of Collaborwocky, where we have conversations about collaboration. Today's conversation is going to be a little one-sided. It's going to be more of a webinar. It's going to be me talking about humane management, the system of humane management and the seven elements of a visual management or of systems. And then, we are going to do a lean coffee, and the lean coffee should take most of the hour. So, I’m going to jump right in and share my screen. Okay, which is a little cleaner, but here it is.

So, at Modus Institute, Modus Cooperand when we approach any project you, know there's agile and there's lean and there's all these things that we've learned over the years. But there has always been something missing.
And so, we've talked about this before, but at Modus we say that individuals work in teams to provide value. What we find is that, agile tends to focus a lot on the team, lean tends to focus a lot on the value. Both of them give kind of lip service to the individuals but that system is a whole system. Individuals in teams providing value, that is a whole professional system. And in order to have that, we need people to be able to communicate have the information that they need when they need it.

We need them to be able to form relationships both within the team, with other teams, with the customers and understand how those relationships are made healthy. Because that's how we understand what quality is and deliver product on time on budget and in good form. Because we actually know what it is that people want. And that, those two things added together create an atmosphere of respect.

When we have these three things, we're able to achieve states of flow either psychological flow, material flow, one-piece flow. Whatever kind of flow we're talking about those require actual functioning human beings on the other side of that equation and those people are usually mistreated. They have too much work to do, they're not listened to, they can't make decisions, they don't get the information they need when they want to. And then we come in as coaches and stuff and we say, ‘Hey, everybody do continuous improvement.’ And they're like, ‘Screw you buddy.’ And they're that way, because they fundamentally don't have what they need to get their work done.

So, we'll build these Kanban’s or we'll build these visual controls or we'll set up you know SCRUM boards or whatever. And we think that that's enough, but it's never enough. It just shows a couple of things that people need and not what they actually -- the bulk of what they actually need to be good professionals. And that's this thing. So, most Kanban on the world in the world right now show you state and triggers. They show a whole lot of state and very few triggers. So, when we approach work, we get stuff to do we do the stuff. The stuff is completed, then we go do more stuff. We don't learn, we don't question what we just did.

I know agile people think they do retrospectives. I know that lean people think that they're doing kaizen, but knowledge work is different. It needs more than retrospectives, needs more than kaizen events, it needs an operating system that really respects the human beings in that system. So, those people do need to know state. They need to know what's going on and who's doing it. They need to know the triggers. So, when something happens, what beneficial behavior does seeing that thing happen cause, right. So, if you see that your stuff is being completed is a completed of quality but the client doesn't seem satisfied with it. That should be a trigger to have a conversation with the customer and to say, ‘Hey, are you really getting what you really want?’

Because we think we're providing it and something seems to be off here. So, we are little bundles of cognitive biases and they make us for better or for worse make decisions very rapidly. They usually serve us very well, but often they'll drive us off onto a path where we will keep doing the wrong thing, we'll get stuck in status quo bias or sunk cost fallacy. Where we keep doing the same bad thing over and over again. And it's because we haven't set up a system with a trigger that says, ‘Hey, right now the state information is telling me that you should take a different path, okay.’ So, up here we have the tactical kind of wing of this. This is tactics and this is what most of our visual controls are. They don't include this stuff down here.

So, move down to the strategic. Put over here first because we talk about direction first. So, direction is where you're coming from. It's kind of where you're coming from and the vision of where you're going. So, these are your plans, these are your backlogs, these are you know the group sitting down and saying over this is our roadmap and this is what we think is going to happen to us. Narrative is what's happened or is happening to you. So, what decisions have you made? What discoveries have you have you had? What complexity have you found and solved? What change did you make during this that made your current state different than your projected state? This is all the strategic. Are we doing, what do we know what we're going to do and, in the end, do we know what we did and how that then informs what we're going to do?

And then lastly, we have kind of this culture blob, these three things down here. The first part of culture blob is culture. So, we tend to think of culture as a soft skill as something that just kind of happens. Because we go bowling or because we get along well or we bring pizzas to the office every so often, but culture isn't that. Culture is how does your team made up of individuals know that they are providing value. How do you know that the new hires that you've made have what they need to make good decisions? How do you know that your colleagues are overloaded or stressed out or needing something from you? How do you support the professionalism of the rest of the team, right?

So, we'll bleed over into this, because this is a system. None of these states lives alone, they can be identified but this is a system. This stuff has to happen together. So, if you have a Kanban and you're putting it out or you're trying to get some SCRUM team off the ground and you're wondering why they're resistant. It's because they're human beings and you're providing them with an incomplete system and they don't have the tools to say, ‘Gosh, looks like you're giving me an incomplete system. I believe that we should do something about that.’ They don't have those tools; they have the tools to tell you to pound sand. So, we have to recognize that when we build our culture here that we're building this culture of continuous improvement. We're building a culture of professionals, okay.

So, I don't want to hear anything more about like software crafts people and stuff. I would like software professionals. I would like software professionals that do not crash planes into the ground, okay. So, I would like us to treat our work seriously. That doesn't mean that it has to be boring or suck or not even be creative. Because Herbie Hancock is a professional. He is unbelievably creative and that dude practices every day. He's in his 80s, he practices every day, he's the best piano player in all of human history. He practices every day, because he has his own culture of professionalism. So, we can build systems easily that do all these things and so in the end, identity.

We've just come off of four years of someone desperately trying to change the conversation of identity to us and them, okay. That doesn't have to be identity that is the easiest least common denominator conversation about what identity is. But what identity for a group is, is why do we exist, what is it that we are doing for other people that allows their lives to be better and us to make money? And how do we make sure that we satisfy both of those missions that we don't starve to death and that we help other people in the process? So, when Deming used to start his classes, he used to say that we are here to learn, to have fun and to make a better world. He was actively setting out to change C culture, right.

So, we have our tactical wing we have our strategic wing we have our narrative wing any Kanban you set up in the future should be doing these things. So, back here, we talked about these lenses allowing us to say, you know whenever we approach a system, how is this system supporting people's communications. How is it supporting relationships? How does it help or hinder respect? But this part down here, PDSA for some reason we just think that we're going to give people a Kanban or we're going to give people an A3 or we're going to give people a SCRUM master and suddenly they're going to engage in continuous improvement. Well they won't, because human beings don't naturally engage in continuous improvement, ever never.

So, there's got to be a system that rewards that behavior that triggers that behavior. So, we had PDSA in the beginning, here's our planning over here our, our doing is kind of up here. Our studying is here and our adjusting is made possible down here. So, this missing bit is the missing link in why we haven't been able to get compelling cultures of continuous improvement before. I want that to sink in, because people think that this is literally that this is just bowling. This isn't a bowling night; this is being able to engage the people at work about work in a way that respects them and respects the work. Because people go to work to work.
So, really quickly I’m gonna take a take a quick break. And note that after we're done with this, we're gonna do a lean coffee Tonianne, I think posted the link for the lean coffee and she will be leading that. But when we get in there that's when we're to dive deep into questions. So, we want to get out of the talking gym mode as quickly as possible. So, what would this look like, if we if we actually did this? So, I’ll give you a theoretical and then I’ll give you a real world. This is the theoretical board. This is a visual culture actually happening. So, we have our deep backlog, we have our upcoming backlog. We have the stuff that we're just about to do. We have things going through design and build and then two types of done.
Very simple board but it lets you do a couple of things. So, these groups said that they wanted in their conversations about culture. They wanted to plan more together. They wanted to be more collaborative planning. They wanted to onboard people more effectively, so they wanted to pair the people who were coming on to the team. They wanted to value their designer who previously had been completely ignored. And they want to do real-time retrospectives. So, the first thing they did was they said, ‘Okay, well we'll set up a board where we can actually see our planning. And then when we get to this grooming thing. We have two things; we have the groomed stuff up here we have the stuff that's being groomed down here.’ So, now what happens is let's just say we move this other ticket into here as well. Move this ticket in. I don't have any interest in these two tickets but i do have an interest in this ticket.

So, when we're actually grooming this, I will volunteer my time as an individual contributor to help groom this ticket. So, everyone doesn't have to groom everything, but the group as a whole knows that there's stuff that they're interested in and that they want to work on it, right. So, they're now planning collaboratively, but they're not turning that into some painful, you know every two weeks we get together and do a full day of planning and everybody's bored off their butt’s thing. So, we get in and we plan what we want to plan we help where we want to help. And yes, you can draft some people if you want to, but there you go.

So, you onboard pairing, let's say that this one is done by our person from Iceland and so we know that that's she's new and so that's going to be a pairing task. So, on the board itself we're showing what is being done by the new people and subsequently being shared. Also, over here for real-time retrospectives, they don't want to talk about everything that goes wrong. They still want to have the retrospective retrospectives. But let's just say that this comes up and it's really really bad. They will stop the line just like a Toyota they'll stop the team and they will do this. So, they have these cultural elements, the cultural elements become part of the board.

So, this looks big and complicated, because human relationships are big and complicated. The visualization can still be simple, right. So, at Turner Construction, this is a very barely visible and highly redacted board that was in their architectural estimate group. And that group had two young women in it that were change agents, named Amanda and Savannah. Amanda and Savannah one day said, ‘You know what, we need a board.’ So, they put up a board in this room and the board had post-it notes and it was very simple. It wasn't ready doing done, but it was still fairly simple. And the team came in and they basically said, ‘Your board sucks. We'll come in here and look at it because we don't want to tell you no but we're not going to really participate.’

And so, then what happened is like people came in, they lean against the wall and then they, you know not for the meeting for other meetings because there's an open conference room. And they'd walk away with the post-it notes. Then they said, okay we'll use dry erase markers. Then they lean against the wall and they'd erase the dry erase markers. This is all actually with wet erase markers. And then, a couple of conversations would happen but people be like this board still doesn't work for us because my project is unique and different. And to Amanda and Savannah's credit they said, ‘Okay, well how is your project different?’ And they said, ‘Well, ours involves these things.’ And they say, ‘Okay, well now you've got different sections inside your column.’

So, all of these projects actually have their own swim lane and an entire, well not entirely but largely different workflows. Because they're relating to the work not to somebody else's definition of the work. And when you relate your visualization to the work that's really happening, that's respect. When people are respected, they're like, ‘Oh, that's kind of cool. I haven't felt that at work before.’ And so, then they will go off and they will say okay well I’m going to change the board a little bit more a little bit more. So, now you'll see that this board for like Kanban Purists is a nightmare. It has a bunch of different columns, it things don't flow there's check marks in it. There’re notes written all over the place that you can barely see. And then there's actual note columns over here for constraints comments and then a parking lot for things to talk about in the future.

So, these comments are things that need to be talked about either in that huddle or in like a few subsequent huddles. The team evolved into not just using the board, but into continuously improving the board. So, you know I’m reasonably sure if I went back and looked at it today, it would look entirely different. So, this board gives not just the individuals in each group with the information they need, it gives the entire team the information they need. Which allowed them to build relationships that they never had before, because they were all siloed in their own little projects. Let me know if this doesn't sound familiar to you. They felt disrespected because they didn't ever get the information they needed and no one would ever help them. But once this board went up, they could see very quickly how and when they could help each other.

And here's the funny thing. Before they visualized their work, they were having huddles once a week. After they visualized their work, they had huddles every day and a long huddle on Fridays where they did lean coffee. They did that while they were saying they didn't need the board, but just getting in and talking about anything made them start to realize that there was information that they weren't getting. So, what we can't do is say, you know I’ve got my board up and I’m getting my burned down chart or my CFD or whatever metrics that I’m asking for or I’m doing lean, so there automatically I have a respect for people. Though that's wishful thinking and wishful thinking to paraphrase is not a strategy.

We need a complete system where we see what's going on, we get actual calls to action. We know what is planned and why, not just for our team but for the organization as a whole so we can use OKRS or whatever we want for that. But we know how our work fits into a bigger picture and then we know how the implementation of that picture is going. And then we know who, why and how we work we are and work together, right. So, we actually build the PDSA loop and we build it intentionally and we understand that these things aren't soft skills this is for knowledge work. The thing that keeps the engines running, and if we don't do that then we are screwed. So, I will close this by showing-- see if you can see it here. Yeah, you can see it here.

So, in between these two pictures, I'll get a different visual control over here for you. So, visual controls are most often thought of as Kanban’s or things that will exist in an obey room. But in my time at Turner, I worked on this project which is the Coney Island hospital project. And this is a coat. This coat is a visual control. It gives the team identity, it's not swag. And so, this team when they first moved in the trailer this is kind of what their board looked like within a couple of months this is what that wall looked like. And you can see it's spreading throughout the trailer and around the job site that different visual controls are coming up, because Kanban is not enough. Jira will never be enough. Jira will never show you the things that we've just talked about.

Now you can have a Jira board that's okay, but understand that this team here in the conference room that's behind this wall has just walls of nothing but visual controls about building this hospital. And you can see here that there's you know very very specific you know daily Kanban that's happening here, also breaks rules of Kanban but it's what this team needs. Down here these little things that you can probably just barely see our little playing baseball cards that they had made for the team. And a few weeks later this whole wall was filled with these baseball cards, this whole section down here. But this is also another identity thing. It's like you're here you belong here you're a professional, we respect you, we want to keep your machinery running.

And so, what I will close with is to say with this project here which was just an unbelievable project to work on, just a blessing to work on. When COVID hit this team, immediately gathered in the conference room behind this wall and said,’ Okay we build buildings. How can we possibly become a remote team?’ And they did it in less than 24 hours. They came up with a whole plan about how they were still going to get. All this information even in a remote setting. And one of the things that was very important to them is every morning they do their huddle and then they do calisthenics in their huddle. Which to a lot of people might sound like a nightmare. It is like starting every day with a tiny party with these people. And they were distraught that they might lose that.

So, they kept doing it even remotely, probably drove all of their spouses crazy. Okay, these are the seven elements of visual management. We are now going to switch to a lean coffee. I see we've got a nice handful of people in there already. So, please do join the lean coffee. And if Tonianne can unmute, she can now become the lean coffee operator.

Tonianne: Tonianne has unmuted. Thank you, Jim and thank you everybody for joining us today. For those of you unfamiliar with lean coffee, it's a democratized meeting format utilizing a Kanban. That was created by Jim and Jeremy Lightsmith in Seattle about a dozen years ago. And it taps the insights of all those in attendance utilizing a Kanban. So, each of you will have three votes. Feel free to use them all on your ticket or if you find other topics compelling, you can distribute them. Topics receiving the most votes will be pulled into doing. I’m going to set a timer for five minutes and I'll let the conversation begin after that.

After the five minutes has lapsed the timer will ding, and without stopping who's ever speaking we're gonna have a silent roman vote. And it would be helpful if I put my video on for a second. So, if you are interested in continuing with the conversation, go like this, Given up vote. If you're ambivalent this if you want to move on to the next topic, I’m gonna do that. If it is in fact this, then we will wait for the person speaking to finish their thought. I will move a ticket into done and I will pull the next topic into doing. If it is in fact something that you are interested as a group in continuing to have a conversation about, I will add more time to the timer and we will continue with that train of thought.

So, please continue to add. There's some really good topics in here Jim. Please continue to add some food for thought.

Jim Benson: Jira is not a coat.

Tonianne: It is not.

Lean Coffee

Jim Benson: Let's see. So, I’m hoping that everybody's in the lean coffee. I can see some but not all of the folks.

Tonianne: It won't show everybody.

Jim Benson: Okay. There's Tim, there's Jonathan.

Tonianne: There's Samir. I see involved.

Jim Benson: Right, well no they were just popping in for me they were probably there earlier. All right. Sorry if that was all too impassioned, because it's impassioned Wednesday for me.

Tonianne: All right, a couple more people are still voting. We'll take another maybe 30 seconds to finish this up.

Jim Benson: Make that big. All right, it goes Jim.

Tonianne: All right, I am going to merge a couple of topics. I’m thinking of merging five and six. I’m wondering if I should merge it with nine as well Jim.

Jim Benson: If you wish.

Tonianne: Okay, let's see.

Jim Benson: If they're gonna be emerged, I don't want to have to read them.

Tonianne: We're gonna make you talk about the human element.

Jim Benson: The human element.

Tonianne: Yeah, the human element.

Jim Benson: That's the seventh element.

Tonianne: Okay, we're gonna merge those. Alrighty, I am going to start the discussion. I am going to put five minutes on the timer. I have a feeling this one might require a little bit more. So, no worries if it does.

Jim Benson: All right, let me expand that. Who do you want to lead this off Tony?

Tonianne: All right. Are you able to give control?
Jim Benson: Yeah, I am. I just need to know to whom I’m doing it.

Tonianne: All right yes, you are Tim. Tim did you ask one of those, post one of those topics?
Jim Benson: All right Tim, allow to talk.

Tonianne: Okay, let's do it.

Jim Benson: There's Tim.

Tonianne: Welcome Tim.

Tim: Hello.

Jim Benson: So, kick it off.

Tim: Oh, hang on, let me get back to the board. So, that was not me, I wasn't sure.

Jim Benson: Oh, you just want to talk?

Tim: I’m just here for color.

Jim Benson: All right. Anyone who lived, raised your hand. Use the raise hand you'd think if you want to talk about. There you go. Allowed to talk. All right. Alexander, you are live and, on the air, and muted. All right, I’ll try this again. Hey John.

Making Inroads Within Your Organization

John: Hi, can you hear me?

Tonianne: Yes.

Jim Benson: We can.

John: Okay great. Yeah, I’m always interested in this and you know these awesome ideas that you all are expressing and that you bring the human element into it is pretty good. Because most of us are human or close to it.

Jim Benson: Almost all.

John: And yeah, so I just wanted to hear about you know just where the rub is and where kind of your initial inroads are to incorporating your thinking about relationships and about making work humane.

Jim Benson: Understood. So, the rub here is that we have been taught that leadership is the most important thing in the whole wide world. And that the people are idiots and require a lot of direction. And we tend to promote people to positions of authority without ever having them you know have to think about what they would do with that authority when they get it. So, what happens frequently is, people are under prepared for the yoke of management. They think that management means control. They go to work trying to control things or make their mark. And at the same time the people who are quote unquote under them under in the org chart are waiting for them to give them direction.

That creates a whole bunch of unnecessary power distance. Power distance is I am an individual contributor, you are a vaunted manager. I will do what you say and I won't verbally question it even if internally I’m going crazy questioning things. Our notion of work is still largely based on either the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution, where it is task based. And we everyone in software has seen how, software is definitely not task based but we keep treating it like it is. So, we will give people tasks. Those tasks will either be you know in the complexity science lingo. They will either be obvious, they will be complicated, they will be complex or they will be well rarely chaotic but they will be one of those first three certainly.

And we will give some poor sucker, something that is either too complicated for them to do alone or is complex and completely irresponsible to do alone. Then we will hold them accountable for the work. We do not understand the role of variation in knowledge work, we do not understand the role of complexity in knowledge work and we give people assignments that are inhumane. We say, ‘Here's this get it done. I’m expecting you to be a go-getter. I’m to give 110% to be able to self-organize to buzzword, you know up the wazoo.’ But what we're actually doing is we're just saying, ‘All right person, okay fungible person here's a task. And if you can't complete it, I’m gonna kick your butt out on the street and then I’m gonna fire find another fungible person.’

What I love about canned process and what makes canned process inhumane is that, if you have signed up for a canned process it never fits how your team actually works. It doesn't fit their personalities, their training, the product, their construction, their tooling. the problems that they find. None of it, you know whatever canned process you may be signing up for. And I remember several years ago, our friend Alan Shalloway coined the phrase ‘SCRUM butt’. Which was teams were like, ‘Yeah, I do SCRUM butt.’ And then they would blame the teams for failing because they did SCRUM Butt, and they didn't do it by the book because the book was holy, and everything was gonna be fine. But it was never fine for anyone. And in the end, SCRUM Butt was actually the only healthy way to do SCRUM.

So, the humane way of rolling out SCRUM is to say, ‘What do you all need and how are we going to use the wisdom and the ideas behind SCRUM to build us an internal operating system that allows us to roll work out in the best way possible? ’So, I'll go back to Turner really quick at the beginning of any project for Turner construction. They do something called a right environment exercise. And I don't have a David Evans mug here, but let's go back to Turner. So, right environment exercise is literally setting everybody down and saying, ‘Okay, you know box of professionals who has gotten together to build this one and a half billion-dollar building.’ What do you need to get your job done? And so, initially they were like I need a computer, I need this I need that. Now it's things like literally on that site there is a dog, they have a site dog.

They have -- there's a variety of creature comforts that go into that respect. But then there is also just the communications respect. So, really quickly since I’m still sharing my screen. I can do this; I can go back over to this picture here. You see that IO is sitting here and Nicole's sitting right next to him. You can't see IO's personal Kanban, because it's on this thing over here but here's Nicole's. If IO needs to ask Nicole anything, he doesn't immediately look at her he immediately looks at her board. He sees what she's working on and then if it looks like you know like right now, she's eating lunch. So, he could totally ask her a question now, but he looks over here and he says, ‘Okay, I see that she's going to be super busy with some really heavy stuff. I’m going to just put a ticket on my board to talk to her tomorrow.’

So, they manage their interruptions of each other by understanding what the other people are doing, that is humane. This guy here his name's Paul. Paul works with another guy named Chris. Chris isn't there but his coats there. And Paul and Chris made up the upper management team for this very large project. When we started out this whole project, we got together and we said, ‘How are we going to make sure that everyone here advances as much as possible in their career between the beginning between when we break ground, and when we you know do occupancy or do the you know permit for entry into the hospital? How can everyone that's working here grow as much as they possibly can in their careers?’ That's humane.
I’ll just go back to this just really quickly and then I’ll shut up. So, all of these things are set up to be implementable. So, people have never had these except maybe incidentally. And when they've had a glimpse at these things regardless of how, like it could have been like in the middle of a tornado where they had this clarity of what they did. They will remember the tornado as a nightmare but be very proud of the work that they did. So, we want to make sure that whatever visual systems we build whatever they might look like, they're as varied as they can possibly be. But whatever those might look like that they give people what they need to get their work done.

I’ll just go back to this just really quickly and then I’ll shut up. So, all of these things are set up to be implementable. So, people have never had these except maybe incidentally. And when they've had a glimpse at these things regardless of how, like it could have been like in the middle of a tornado where they had this clarity of what they did. They will remember the tornado as a nightmare but be very proud of the work that they did. So, we want to make sure that whatever visual systems we build whatever they might look like, they're as varied as they can possibly be. But whatever those might look like that they give people what they need to get their work done.

What Do Most Managers and Coaches Miss?

Tonianne: Thank you Jim. I’m going to move that discussion into discussed and I’m going to pull the next highest priority topic.

Jim Benson: I love doing this stuff.

Tonianne: What do you think is something most managers or coaches miss, when building a system or the biggest misconception? Whoever is responsible for that topic?

Jim Benson: Raise your hand. Going once, going twice. I’m gonna just answer it how I want then. A warning, okay. So, what do you think is something most managers or coaches miss when building a system? I think that almost no coaches or managers ever build a system. I think they make a plan. I know this for a fact because I’ve run teams, I’ve run companies, I've run you know fairly major organizations. Tonianne and I have worked with now fairly for us, I shouldn't say countless but I’ll just say we've lost count with so many different teams. And every team has some project manager or equivalent that writes out a plan and then people try and get the work done based on that guest, that is an okay starting point.

So, I am James Benson AICP, I am a certified urban planner. I can write 50-year plans for any city on earth right now just with my bare hands. I wouldn't do it but I can. So, I’ve studied a lot about planning and the act of planning. And what I loved being an urban planner was when we would do things called Design Charettes. Which is we would get together a whole group of people from a community and we would say, ‘We're going to build this park or this transit statio or what have you. And we are going to get together and we are going to design it.’ So, there's a view corridor the pike street view corridor in Seattle that I worked on years ago. We got about 180 people together to do this massive design charette for what that view corridor would look like. And it was for all intents and purposes my first taste at what like a mega collaboration could look like.

It frustrates me when companies and teams say, ‘Well, we've got to divide this stuff up because we're too big.’ So, I would say the biggest misconception is that large groups of people cannot come to alignment around what they're doing and why. The second biggest misconception is that once you make a decision, you're somehow morally and legally bound to force that decision to happen. So, every decision that you make is a guess and it should be informed gleefully by reality. Like, oh I didn't see that coming and then you change. And then you remember why you changed and that no one is held accountable for that because that's learning. So, what happens is we build systems of accountability which is the biggest miss, I guess.

Accountability is a trap; you never hear somebody being held accountable for something that went right. So, in the failure of responsibility we plan for accountability. And when we do that, we just basically set up a Gantt chart of individual pre-programmed failure. That is fundamentally inhumane, unproductive, soul-destroying, value destroying, future destroying, dick.

Tonianne: And I want to make sure you see Gretchen’s comment below the ticket.

Jim Benson: Well, so no, so I’ll go back over here. So, that's just it. Right now, I see visual management that other people do being all about the work. It's all about what's happening now and is there a bottleneck and that is fundamentally stultifying and soul-destroying. So, here these pictures of everybody else are not about the work. Let me find another example. So, this was a letter that the team had received thanking them for some stuff that they had done. And they all annotated it and they didn't just annotate it by like signing it or putting happy faces, they doodled the hell out of this thing. It was the craziest thing. The dog is a visual control that has nothing to do about the work. The coat is a visual control about the work.

And just to put my money where my mouth is, this is our beautiful Modus code. The right here Kevin right now is working on kind of the center of a value stream mapping exercise. A value stream mapping exercise is a visualization that is of work, but what happens is when you get in and you start having conversations with people about the flow of work, the problems around the work, the possible solutions to that work, the objects or areas where you could collaborate better with others. And when you start having those conversations with other people, then you come back to this human element where you start to see where your assumptions were about the work as it's flowing. And you realize, ‘Oh, my god when I was giving you work in that state it was hurting you. Or when I was busy with my head down you weren't getting the information that you needed. And that was making you hate me which made you not respect me. Which made you kind of be a jerk which made me not respect you. And then we were going back and forth and fighting and having meetings, which destroyed our flow.’

So, the human being and their psyche are a central part of the work and that the work itself is a central part of their psyche. So, I know that sounds like I keep coming back to work, but I'll go back here again. But these things here are all internal human relationship issues that we screw up, because we think that the work is just the work and not the people. I could go on for days about that, so I’m going to pop back over here.

Custom Visual Mangement vs. Keeping It Simple?

Tonianne: Because we have another good question. How do you balance customizing visual management with keeping things simple? Raise your hand.

Jim Benson: There we go. Hey Gretchen. and you're muted. So, do you want to add to that?

Gretchen: Can you say that again, you got quiet?

Jim Benson: Oh, do you want to add to that?

Gretchen: Just really like we have a visual management board that we have done some level of customization, but it seems like there's this struggle of like not making it too much. Like honoring the intent, yet making it real for the team and meaningful for. Just if you have any tips on how to balance those?

Jim Benson: Yeah, so I'll go back to this one. As might be apparent we've seen thousands of boards and this one is one of my favorites. So, keeping it simple. We want to give people the information that they need, when they need it in order to do a good job. The elegance of the presentation of that information or the shared folksonomy or lexicon of the presentation of that information. Very important, simplicity is not minimalism, okay. So, this board has a ton of stuff going on. It's got a bunch of different columns and a bunch of different rows. It's got a bunch of notes over here, things are written in a messy way. But it's simple in that it gives the team the information they need not just to do the work or to know what other work is being done, but to know how they can help others.

So, again you say think of each of these swim lanes as a sideways silo. Before this board went up no team knew what any other team was doing and these people never talked to these people, these people never talked to these people and so on and so forth. The board initially went up, behavior was unchanged. Because the board hadn't yet found its voice. The two events happened that allowed this board to find its voice. The first was that this part of estimation. I was suffering because people were learning things all the time. And you know they're estimating major construction projects. So, the price for things changes regularly and the mechanisms by which you might estimate evolve.

So, these people would learn something and then the only way that anyone would ever find out is this project would get done and these people would move to other projects and then you know the learning would percolate. But what happened was that once this board went up and they started actually having their huddles in front of this board, not only did they have their puddles more frequently but they actually started talking about how can I help you. I think that for me is the major thing is when the board stops becoming a way to track work and it becomes a way to track realized value. That's when things get exciting. That's when things get exciting for me but it's also when things get exciting for the team.

So, going back over here to the to this, you can see over here this is Elvis Karlix station. He is the chief superintendent for the project. He has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 different visual controls. 9 if you count the calendar hanging on his wall. This is just Elvis's station, okay. But this is the information that Elvis needs when he needs it. What you don't want is a visual control that no one uses. So, don't be afraid to retire them, set fire to them, you know give it a go away party. But you know this is how many people are on site. If I scroll backwards, I've got literally dozens of different visualizations from this single project on this board, in this deck. And so, I just want to make it like abundantly clear that if you've just got kind of a board that just looks like these three columns, then that's not probably going to give you the information that you need.

So, find out from the team what hurts, right now what is hurting you as a professional and then visualize that next to your board. Start to build out an obeah a kind of a command center and realize that the Kanban that keep it simple is not a good rule. Keep it relevant is an awesome rule, keep it supportive is a good rule. But my fear is kept it simple, means keep it underpowered for most people.

Gretchen: Thank you.

Jim Benson: You bet. All right.

Best Visualization Tool For Remote Work?

Tonianne: You ready to take on this in four minutes.

Jim Benson: I will do my best to be concise for a change.

Tonianne: All right, one of the best visual management tools to use with remote work question on all our minds.

Jim Benson: All right, so I’m not gonna -- in the purpose of brevity, I will just jump in. All visual management tools are awesome, all visual management tools suck. So, the question is, ‘What do you need to know right now?’ And I’m going to show you something that I didn't think I was going to show you, and this Zoom thing is always like right where you want to click. That's not the right one, that's the right one. All right, yeah, I know right it keeps coming up. So, Tonianne and I right now are just finishing up our Lean Agile Visual Management Certification. And the first group is just about ready to matriculate.

It has been a religious experience doing this whole class. But when we set it up initially, we set up a Trello board. Yeah, so originally, we set up a spreadsheet that I had used before on previous classes. The conversations that Tonianne and I were having were too robust to withstand a spreadsheet, so we put it into Trello. Trello was even worse than the spreadsheet, so we set up this completely crazy looking thing in Miro. So, what we have here is each module, we have each unit in the module. We have, move away -- we have the what you could call our value stream for our Kanban. But none of this work was done linearly. So, I would shoot a video and then we would do a bit of a write-up and then we'd do this bit of the write-up. And then Tonianne would dive into the psychology of it and then some things would happen in some and not others.

So, let me go to the current one, because there's unfortunately we just finished the one before. But here this allows me to show where things are in whip, things that Tonianne has said this is good. Notes for Tonianne for herself notes from Tonianne to me. This is an actual war room for this project. This is the information that we needed for a highly inventive recursive project. And so, I’m showing you this to specifically not answer your question. We've used tons of Trello boards. We've used tons of lean kit boards. We've used other tools like our CMS has a Kanban in it. And we will use that Kanban in the CMS to manage marketing that we're doing.
We're actually also using a Kanban that's attached to a database that we built that manages like the activities of our students. But for this particular project, you know we need to be able to have these conversations, right. You can't just put this in a Trello card. It's gonna get buried it's gonna get lost. But for this anything that's orange, Jim knows he has to deal with. Anything that's green, Tonianne knows that she has to deal with. Anything that's teal, we know has graduated. Anything that is black, we know is whip. So, we can zoom way out and we can tell all this stuff from 30,000 feet so we actually have our portfolio Kanban here.

So, you see the giant guy smiley over here, that is covering up this one. Because all of the -- when I didn't even see that. So, when Tonianne blessed these for leaving, they were guy smile-- they're smiley before. So, when this was done, we shipped the whole thing with a giant guy smiley. But it also allows us to do things like mini celebrations and being silly and allowing us to be us. So, this and this and the little champagne glasses here, that's us being us. And physical boards are awesome for that. You can put little pictures up there and silly things and you know celebrations and whatnot.

I got to tell you, after a couple of years of stultifying trying to find tickets on trellis that have fallen below the bottom of the screen, this was a godsend. Does this give you statistics and stuff? No. Do we miss the statistics? Not for a second. Because we're getting the information that we need. So, what I would say is that if you need certain things statistics integrations so forth. Go for it. I’ll also show you like I can't show you really, but one of our other major visual controls is Slack. So, slack immediately tells us when we've made a sale, when someone's joined a mailing list, when someone's commented on one of our posts, when someone's commented on something in Modus institute. When someone's put in an assignment, that sends out an integration to slack. Slack immediately lets us know that it's there and off we go.

So, don't look for other people's solutions to be yours. Find your language and your communication for your people and your professionals. And then find a way to make that happen. It may end up looking like a hot mess that you will get the most out of. That's my end of my rant for today. So, that is the end of our time. Thank you for everybody that stayed over. And collaborwocky number 4 is coming in one month. We are looking forward to seeing everybody there and the topic for that currently is killing interruptions. We might change that, but I think it's going to live. But please do come back and we will -- as we go forward one of my personal goals is to make the lean coffees less lecture and more conversation. And we just have to figure out a way to make that work. But either way, thank you all for signing in and we will see you all soon.