A young boy walks along a beach littered with thousands of starfish. Every couple of meters, he bends down to pick up a starfish and throws it back into the sea. A man watching the boy walks up to him shaking his head and asks him, “What are you doing?” “I’m saving the starfish,” the boy answers. “But that doesn’t make any sense,” replies the man, bewildered. “What difference does it make to the other thousands of starfish lying here on the beach?” “It makes a difference to this one here,” the boy replies, throwing one more starfish into the sea.

“Making a difference” is perhaps the fundamental mantra for change. Similarly, “making lots of small changes” could be Kanban’s mantra. It could be that this causes just as much headshaking as the man in the story about the young boy and the starfish. Why concern yourself with individual starfish when a comprehensive rescue project is really what’s needed? Because many small changes add up to a big change, we might answer, using the beach story as an example. Because every starfish thrown back is equivalent to a small improvement. And because we, just like the boy, have the power to make these improvements.

Something must obviously change if things are to improve. And, as the story about the starfish shows, change is always a little controversial. On the one hand, it seems to come about of its own accord: a powerful gust of wind, an unexpected sea current, and suddenly the beach is covered with starfish. On ...

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