This is an experience report describing how we used Kanban plus the Theory of Change to begin a transformation of a NYC social services agency away from traditional ways of doing business and towards a more adaptable, responsive, and outcomes-driven approach and ultimately a better steward of taxpayer monies.
Like many health and human services-based agencies, this mayoral agency was originally focused on procurements, contracts with third party providers, and standardized quarterly reporting to run its operations.
The commissioner challenged his agency to become more directly client-facing, data-driven, and oriented on outcomes. The agency leveraged the Theory of Change (ToC) to establish a conceptual framework including a set of desired outcomes and the high-level steps it will take to achieve the outcomes. ToC seeks to fill in the gaps between actions (e.g. provide afterschool program) and key results (e.g. reduce school dropout rates). ToC is especially relevant in health and human services contexts due to the difficulty in making these kinds of connections.
We observed that the ToC approach is compatible with Objectives and Key Results (OKR) which according to Klaus Leopold often plays a key part of a flight-level three (strategic) Kanban system. In our engagement we focused at the strategic level and worked together to establish a flight-level three (strategy) kanban system for the CIO to manage his initiatives. We designed and built a number of metrics so that the CIO could measure relative levels of investment and effort between different initiatives. This was a huge leap forward, since in the past the CIO could only report aggregate numbers and therefore had no way of measuring cost/benefit by matching outcomes to specific investments.
Our work with this client is continuing, and many new challenges have arisen. Ultimately, however, the agency is making good progress on its drive to improve organizational maturity and a deeper and richer Kanban implementation. This session will dive into lessons learned, results achieved, and key observations.