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Updated: Apr 2

Twenty years ago, I was a value stream manager for a large manufacturing organization. Leading an important Lean transformation, I used a multitude of Lean principles and tools to improve the flow of value on the shop floor. Embracing Lean, I started to apply what I had learned for process improvement to my leadership activities. After many iterations, my leader’s standard work helped me to establish the correct routines and improve their content and timing.

Eventually, I realized that leader standard work was necessary, but not sufficient to create stability in my work. The intensive Lean transformation required me to conduct many tasks that were not cyclical and could not be included in my leader standard work. Those tasks bumped into my cyclical work and destabilized it.

This is when I came to reflect on Type C Kanban which combines type A (fill up) and type B (sequential) Kanban systems. Why not adapt the type C concept to leadership work? I decided to establish a pull system for non-cyclical tasks. In the beginning, I capped the number of “active” tasks to 3 and put them on post-its. I would not start a new “active” task until a “square kanban” authorizes it. To complete the integration with my leader’s standard work, I added new routines: “review personal kanban” at the beginning of the day and “advance personal kanban” blocks of time. The non-cyclical tasks became… cyclical!

Over the years, the system kept improving. I learned about Eisenhower’s priority matrix and applied some ideas from Jim Benson who had the brilliant idea to write a book on the concept. The picture posted here shows the result of this evolution.

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