Why I am No Longer With Lean-Kanban University

April 24, 2013 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I formed LKU as an equal partner with David Anderson in 2011 with high hopes of an organization that would manifest the values of industry service, thought leadership and inclusion.  I envisioned it as a place to provide industry awareness of the value of Lean and Kanban, a listing of courses on Lean and Kanban, and as a way of identifying those truly experienced Lean and Kanban trainers and coaches. However, after being forced into a minority position as soon as we created the accreditation program, I have seen LKU go in a direction I have not liked.  I do not doubt the quality of its offerings, but it has not manifested my vision for it and being a minority partner has left me powerless to do anything about it.  When David recently said the company was insolvent, that he planned to get some additional funding for it but didn't see a place for me in it, it was clearly time to go.

Leaving LKU creates an opportunity to try again and to create an open community that is based on providing value to the industry through both free offerings (e.g., blogs, webinars, ...) and courses offered. I am a strong believer in "the rising tide raises all boats."  About 20 years ago I heard Earl Nightingale's mantra that money is a measure of value delivered (assuming you are an entity with integrity). I wish I could say that I have trusted that a focus on value delivered will provide a return all of my life, but that would not be true.  I am proud to say, however, that when I created Net Objectives in 1999, I declared this attitude to be a core of our values and beliefs and have both manifested that and seen it to be true. This, unfortunately, was not the attitude manifested by LKU as demonstrated when a couple of us were vilified by David for supporting DARE 2013 - our view being it was an awesome conference and added value, David's being that it competed with LKU events.

I am currently investigating forming a new organization with a similar vision I originally had for LKU, but with a different, open, structure.  It is also possible I will work with ICAgile to help create a Lean/Kanban certification.  If I do form another organization, it will come from:

  • Industry service
  • Helping the community understand the benefits of Lean and Kanban methods
  • Provide high-quality training and coaching
  • Help the membership with their livelihood
  • Take an attitude of inclusion

It will not be limited to Kanban as Kanban is only one of several methods that are powerful.  However, all offerings will fit under the umbrella of Lean.  Having been providing Agile services for 14+ years, I have seen the value and limitations of several methods, including XP, Scrum, and Kanban.  These are all powerful but are not universal.  While Lean has many practices, its mindset is its true power  It enables it to expand with new ideas. It’s foundational core of systems thinking, respect for people, attending to flow, autonomation and continuous improvement has proven its ability to provide context and insights into any situation.  10 years after first taking advantage of its insights I have yet to find where I can’t apply it.

On an even more personal note, I wanted to share an experience I had with something I have heard time and time again but don't think truly understood.  I have heard that challenges breed opportunities.  I admit that I've always thought that meant something along the lines of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "when one door closes another opens."  These are true, but I've discovered another meaning, something I believe I got from Steve Chandler (if you don't know who he is - learn and follow).  I remember the story of a new salesman who came to him for coaching and complained he was at a disadvantage because he had no experience.  How would he have any credibility with the prospects compared to the other experienced sales folks. Steve suggested he use this as his advantage.  In other words, his challenge of no experience was his strength.  How? By acknowledging it and having it be part of who he was and what he did.  Steve (if in fact, this is from Steve as I am not 100% sure) suggested he let his prospects know he was new (as if they didn't anyway) but that because of this he will work that much harder and be a much better advocate for them than the more experienced folks.  What an approach! Brilliant and valuable.  I believe the challenges I've had at LKU point us to the new opportunities that await.  

Exciting times!

Al Shalloway
CEO, Net Objectives


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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.



Although I'm sure there has been some stress over the past while, I'd like to say congratulations. For the same things you cite above I have not paid much attention to the LKU community as I didn't agree with the direction it was going.

I am intrigued by the potential for a new more inclusive org and will be watching for the announcement.


Hello Al,

Thanks for sending a clear message and announcing your plans and motivation. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you reveal.

For my part I'm not comfortable with the LKU certification program, for example in 5 minutes of searching and reading I couldn't find published criteria for the certification... Opaque makes me uncomfortable here.

Let me know how I can help,

I am not looking at a certification model for the new organization. I am looking at a peer to peer accreditation based on peer review, not central, controlled committee which i have seen not work at least twice now. i have no problem giving a certification of having successfully passed a course. But not a certification of skill levels. Way too hard to do at this point.

In my mind, certifying the quality of a trainer is much easier than certifying a coach which is still easier than certifying a person. 


I am not comfortable with the notion of central accreditation. I want to learn more about your vision. Let me know if there is anyway I can help out.


It seems that not only Agile (more understandable as being a "huge umbrella") but also Scrum and now KanBan are continuing to get fragmented in both teachings and potential certifications

I recently had a discourse with Masa on "how" he was offering a kanban "certification" - endorsed by the PMI, B-T-W, and he explained his own departure from LKU (or disassociation with David Anderson) and why he was striking out on his own and offering his own certification.

Have you considered the possibility of partnering back up with Masa? David as the originator of the definitive KanBan "tome" regardless does Not "own" Kanban. But it'd be nice to get some "Agile Thought Leadership" partnership to add credibility in terms of sponsoring Kanban detailed practices and learnings, as well as certification, rather than more of the the continued fragmentation.

I think these are good ideas. I know Masa well and will reach out to him. Thanks for suggesting that. Actually, David did not invent the Kanban team process even though he was it's earliest, strong evangelist. The Kanban Method he espouses in his book is a translation of Lean learning and Toyota Kata. Good stuff all around, but I wouldn't call it a creation. Ironically, I've been meaning to write a blog about the difference between creating and discovering methods. In the Lean-Kanban space I would suggest we are discovering what works by looking at the science of flow and the psychology of people.

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