The Shared Story – Element #1 of the Kanban

In the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West was recognized as irrepressibly evil. For decades, people were very comfortable in her conviction and ultimate death sentence. However, in the book Wicked, Gregory Maguire gave her a backstory that completely transformed how we thought about her.  Maguire saw that she and her evilness might have a bit of context.

In a story, context is everything. If people only get one view of your work, their view is likely to be stilted, lacking in context, and filed with assumptions. If you don’t have enough information about your co-workers, you will suffer the same fate. If we lack this information, we do not have a clear story about our work – which means that we and our colleagues are all making decisions with different interpretations of how work is actually done.

When other people view your Personal Kanban, or you share one with a team, you all see many variables simultaneously, through the same visual mechanism, and in context. That sounds hard, but it’s as easy as reading a comic strip or looking at a map.

We see tasks not yet done, tasks in progress, tasks completed. We see the steps we really took to complete those tasks. We see the workload in all its glory. We see our stated and our unstated policies in action. We see the results of politics, procrastination, and passivity.

And we construct a shared story. Before we had this shared story, we were dealing with our individual stories, which conflicted in small ways. Sometimes the conflicts were large, but usually they were so small we dismissed them or didn’t even consciously notice them. The problem was, when work went a way that didn’t jibe with someone’s individual story (how they thought the team worked), they would become upset. Often not quite knowing why.

There was a disconnect between how things were “supposed” to work, and how they were actually working. Somewhere in that story – that the individuals had in their heads – there were variations that caused frustration.

The shared story comes out of the Personal Kanban by the simultaneous structure (common work types, limiting WIP, value stream, etc.) and anti-structure (elements of flow or presentation that don’t look quite “right” to the viewer and prompt questions.)

That’s a wordy way of saying that two people can look at a kanban and share a more common interpretation.

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3 Responses to The Shared Story – Element #1 of the Kanban

  1. Ape says:

    I am really looking forward to these.

    The key take away for me will be the ability to share things like this:

    “The problem was, when work went a way that didn’t jibe with someone’s individual story (how they thought the team worked), they would become upset. Often not quite knowing why.”

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