This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

We go for tools way too soon

ShinyHow often do initiatives get bogged down with the introduction of shiny, new tools instead of the meat of the change?

It's difficult because often the initiative is wrapped up in the tools: new project management approaches, shop floor improvements, etc.  I've seen it happen with Critical Chain implementations - the goal is to create behavior change, but people focus on the new (software) tools. Maybe the tools shouldn't be introduced right away. I have also seen the same thing in Kanban (for knowledge work) implementations. Kanban is all about using whiteboards and sticky notes for visualization, but people often want to make those whiteboards look more attractive.  "Attractive" is either something more formally designed or an electronic system.

The problem is that people see the "messy" white board and want to transform it to electronic too soon. Implementations of Kanban and related techniques fully expect to make changes as they go. A major part of using the boards in the first place is to help people see what is happening so that they can make directed changes to the system to make it better (better in Kanban is usually shorter lead times and more of the right stuff completed). Kanban is an "evolutionary" process that starts with the world as it is and use the visualization to help people see where things could change.  I've done implementations where the board changed several times within the span of a few weeks.

When things go from the easily-changed whiteboard to something electronic - when a specific board design is rendered on the screen - it appears that it is harder to change.  This is even stronger for change efforts that are heavily connected to software already.  And when it feels like the software or other rigidity is getting in the way of the change, resistance grows in the entire effort. I love the stories of Lean Sensei's showing up on a manufacturing floor and directing that entire machines be moved around: these guys really see that nothing is sacred. The challenge is to separate the desired behaviors from how the tools supports the work. Change the tools if they don't support the work.  (Caution: I can see this discussion leading down the path of people wanting to ditch the software because it is different, rather than because it isn't effective.)

[Photo: "Shiny" by Mark Menzies]

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