Acts of leadership at every level. Is that even possible?

My Budapest story illustrates the last [leadership] point (…). Seeing the enhanced board made me feel that it was no longer just mine – it was the team’s, ours. And it didn’t stop with the board. For example, I might try to move work to the “Testing” column, only to be asked: “Mike, has your code been reviewed?” and I would have to admit that it had not. The team had taken the ownership of the process to such an extent that they had the confidence to challenge even the manager. Moreover, the newfound process ownership represented a new level of concern for quality. (1)

My Budapest story…

My Budapest story… 

I read through these words of Mike Burrows’ book “Kanban from the Inside” few times and couldn’t believe someone described so accurately my current experience 5 years earlier. Just names and place were different.

My Krakow story illustrates the principle: “Encourage acts of leadership at every level.” Seeing the enhanced board made me feel that it was no longer just mine – it was the team’s, ours. And it didn’t stop with the board. For example, I might try to move work to the “Development” column, only to be asked: “Anna, is this really in development already?” and I would have to admit that it is not. The team had taken the ownership of the process to such an extent that they had the confidence to challenge everyone. Moreover, the newfound process ownership represented a new level of concern for quality.

It all started a few months ago, when we introduced kanban system to deliver our new project. No push, full team ownership, planning and retrospectives happening literally every day during the daily kanban.

But all that time I asked myself a question: “What the true leadership is?” How can I recognize that we really follow kanban principle: “Encourage acts of leadership at all levels?” Too many times I rather witnessed situation that team members didn’t give a… care about their daily tasks. Trying to encourage them to do anything more than coming to work was pretty advanced challenge.

What brought the team I work with to the place where we are at this moment – fearless leadership – is a combination of three elements: strong responsibility, deep integrity and true ownership.

Responsibility comes with mental maturity. It has nothing to do with age, gender or even work or life experience. It has nothing to do with personality type. All of us feel strongly responsible for the product we have been asked to deliver – seeing simultaneously all of the components of this product and product as a whole. The goal is clear, the path is known. All we have to do is to walk down this path together.

Integrity is the next level of transparency and transparency, which Kanban comes with, helps us to achieve integrity. Integrity manifests the most, when it comes from words to actions. I’m sure, I will never be surprised by the team. We know ourselves: no lies, no gossiping, no secret chit chats.  All for one and one for all – in this case is just a synonym of trust and truth within the team.

Ownership of the process is strictly related to responsibility and transparency. Because we are not afraid to challenge each other and speak openly, everyone feels owner of the work we deliver. The whole, end to end work. There is no situation of “It’s not mine task, it’s hers.” All of us can jump, more or less smoothly, into another team member’s work and take it over, what is especially valuable and helpful, when it comes to difficult out-of-control situations.

Responsibility for the process and friends. Internal and external integrity of words and actions. Ownership of work and product delivered. For me this is a perfect composition of  true leaders. At every level.

(1) M. Burrows, Kanban from the Inside, 2014, p. 49-50

Picture credits: pixabay.