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!