in my first two blogs of this series about value flow I talked about Value Stream Mapping and waste in software development. If you read both blogs you’re beginning to scratch the surface of what lean is and that is a good thing. You are thinking beyond short time local improvements and focus on seeing the system as a whole. With this blog I want to conclude the series about value flow with a broader picture about lean.
Thinking about your company as a system that creates value and understanding how it does so and then continuously improving current standards, the way of work and how to learn is key to becoming lean.
Here are a few ideas how you could start on your journey to lean.
- have long-term solutions and improvements in mind
- use “pull” instead of push
- level out workload
- use visual controls to highlight problems
- stop to fix problems
- use reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes
- grow leaders who deeply understand the work live the philosophy and teach it to others
- develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy
- make decisions slowly by consensus thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly
- go see for yourself to fully understand the situation
- become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement
Now the key for most or anything in a company is management. A transformation to lean is nothing that you can do bottom up with the exception of startups where everyone might still be equal.
Role of Management
So you convinced the developers to use kanban boards with pull mechanisms to create a better flow of work. What next?
You find out that for real flow you would need true cross-functional teams, switch some workplaces maybe bring everyone together in a new office room.
Or you want to do a Kaizen-workshop to start working on long-lasting problems and show how those lean tools can help your company?
Can you do it on your own? With the teams help?
Almost always you’ll have to involve a manager from a certain level. This might be team leads, middle management or even C-level.
Management is keen on numbers, so give them numbers. Get them hooked up by providing them short term improvements that show the potential of what you want to do.
You could for example use a kaizen workshop to drive down the time for building, regression testing, deployment and uploading of the software that your company develops from 2 weeks to several hours.
What you want to do is to get their attention and then make them passionate leaders of your transition to a lean company. Don’t fall into the trap of just going for the low hanging fruits. Always follow up your quick wins with long-term strategies and continuous improvement programs that involve the leaders.
The goal here is to get the leaders involved and develop them instead of shining with quick wins.
From there your company should make it a goal to have leaders with the following skillset:
As you can see the most important skill by far is building a learning organization. In this role the leader should be the ones carrying and conveying the vision of the company and coaching and guiding how to get there.
As a group facilitator the leader empowers the teams to take decisions for themselves and consult rather than command.
Additionally a lean leader also needs to be able to be a task master. This means he needs to know how the work is done and be able to show “how to get the hands dirty”.
Last but not least even in lean there is some bureaucracy needed. Processes are standardized with the help of the “Act” part Deming Cycle that you find in the second blog about value flow and those standards need to be followed. The leader also watches over these standards to ensure they are continuously reviewed and improved.
Without management support your quest will be over quite soon, but what else is needed?
Tips to get started with lean
These tips can help you get started:
- improve processes in the technical area; directly after that implement cultural change
- First doing, training comes after. Theories are nice, results are better.
- Use value stream maps to develop models that can be used as a “go and see” example
- With the help of these value stream maps create a future state vision that enables people to “learn to see”
- Kaizen-workshops can boost improvements on the way to the future state
- Re-organize around your value streams
- Make the transformation mandatory
- Use a crisis to switch to lean as a last resort
- Find “short-term” improvements with big financial impact to boost your movement
- Change your metrics to reflect your value streams perspective, e.g. throughput time
- Create your own lean company culture that can be seen as your DNA
- Hire or develop lean leaders and follow up with a succession system. If the top is not driving the transformation it will not happen.
- Use experts for teaching and getting quick results.
After that the only additional tip I want to give you is to get started. Apply pull systems, facilitate Kaizen workshops, create value stream maps.
If you found this blog interesting then I highly recommend to read the book The Toyota Way. Even though it’s not about software development almost all principles can be directly applied to a software environment. Another book that I highly recommend is Lean Software Development.
Thx for reading,