Kanban’s Change Management Principles

Most change management is based on a model introduced by the McKinsey consulting firm. This model became prevalent in the 20th Century and has two main flavors: replace what you are doing now with a defined process, prescribed from a catalog; design a replacement process customized to the dynamics of your environment. There is a variant of the second type where the design is based off the existing process as a baseline. There are several variants of these including Value Stream Mapping from the Lean body of knowledge, and the Thinking Processes approach from the Theory of Constraints. The Kanban Method rejects all of these approaches on the basis that they typically introduce too much change all at once, and they suppose that the process designer is somehow smarter than the workforce and smart enough to understand all the complexities of the domain and the dynamics of the workflow. This approach of designing solutions or selecting them from a pattern catalog seems to have worked fairly well in deterministic domains and physical environments. The Kanban Method is based on the assumption that such an approach is problematic in complex, non-deterministic domains such as professional services, knowledge work and creative pursuits. In other words, 21st Century businesses need a 21st Century model for change management. This model should be based on evolutionary theory as it is compatible with and robust to the complexity, emergent and non-deterministic outcomes of modern work producing intangible goods.