From Chaos to Confidence: Managing unexpected success

Presentation Abstract

We often aim for success and welcome it with open arms. But, sometimes success comes more quickly than you anticipate, and demand for services exceeds your capacity to deliver. The result can be missed commitments, high stress, and inability to forecast with clarity. As quickly as your brand shines, it can tarnish with your inability to keep up. Basically your dreams become your nightmare.

In 2012, we formed a small little training program for a transforming enterprise that consisted of a single class and an instructor. Within 3 years we had grown to 12 courses and 6 instructors with a waiting list for seats. People wanted more courses and more offerings of the existing courses. People were asking for us to attend events and summits and briefings. As demand surged we began to fall into a pattern of unreliable service and delivery with a completely unsustainable work/life balance.

In the midst of the chaos we became inspired by the IT software development model of Kanban. While we’re doing a different kind of work than IT, we became convinced an implementation of a proto-kanban management system could save our reputation. We started with stickie notes on a whiteboard. We visualized all of the work we were doing: every inquiry, work product, service request. We then limited the commitments we made based on a strict prioritization method and only worked on a handful of things at a time. We became hyper-focused on getting things done and much less focused on getting things started. And finally we used “throughput” metrics to influence other departments to help with shared work items. We were also able to use our metrics to influence upper-management to see our training department as a primary service that needed scaled resources instead of as a support service that was merely overhead.

The start-up IT Kanban management method saved our business when the chaos of success was drowning us. And it can help you too!

What can attendees expect to learn?

  • It will give a clear case study of managing scaling of non-software development knowledge work
  • It will include some simple but profound steps into gaining visibility into chaotic work flows and sources of requests
  • It will cover some simple metrics that can influence other parts of the organization to resolve blocked work items
  • Attendees will learn skills that are actionable tomorrow

Meet the Presenter

Melinda Solomon is the president of Middlegrass Consulting. She is a training professional who has created educational programs catering to diverse international audiences in a variety of industries including Pharmaceuticals, Biotech, and Government. She has worked with organizational transformations to implement lean principles and agile methodologies in highly regulated environments. She has designed and delivered training in more than 30 countries in support of dozens of federal agencies.

She has led the USCIS Agile Training Program for 5 years and has taught Agile classes to over 2200 students and specializes in communicating about responsible agile transformation. She holds a Masters degree in International Education, CSM, PMP, Accredited Kanban Trainer and was a Fulbright Fellow for the State Dept.