In “The Jungle Book of Leadership,” organizational consultant Ruth Seliger writes that leadership is a bit like housework ; it usually goes on in the background and is normally only noticed when it doesn’t happen. All of a sudden, dirty plates are left lying around, dust collects in corners, and the pile of dirty laundry grows. It’s immediately clear that the invisible hand that usually takes care of everything is missing. Without attracting any attention, this invisible hand ensures the quality of our environment.
The same is true of a Kanban system’s working environment. An invisible hand is also necessary to maintain the quality of operations on a day-to-day basis. The system’s design must be kept under observation and if necessary adjusted. Bottlenecks must be identified and blockers eliminated. In other words, leadership is required.
The leadership of a Kanban operation is also for the most part invisible. Leadership is not a single project but a continuous process. It is a series of smaller and larger activities that are taken for granted although they require that someone does them.
The consequence is that it is quite easy to overlook the necessity of active operational leadership. The idea that everything just works on its own is one of the great myths of Kanban evolutionary change sustained by four potentially fatal assumptions: