Monthly Archives: October 2013

Blogging – Get Started Today

Hi all,

I’m not blogging for too long and still learning in how to do it in a good way.

Blogging can be a really great instrument to:

  • forming great ideas into something useable
  • condensing information from a book to share it and reference it later
  • writing a book like my friend Luis Goncalves recently did it 
  • showing what you’re passionate about
  • sharing your expertise with others
There are many more reasons for blogging. 
The one thing that many of my colleagues and other people with whom I spoke about blogging find as a big blocker is:

Starting with your first blog post – today

There are so many reasons why not to start a blog. I even had a discussion about that when I gave a crash course about blogging in my company.
You will only find out if blogging is for you by starting to write your first blog post.
Not tomorrow, not in two weeks. Today.
If you’re not willing to start today then don’t bother to read any further, you’ll just be wasting your time.

From the blogging crash course that I did I want to share some material with you.
Those ideas are from another blog.

  1. What is the reason to write this blog post? Think about why this could be interesting for others or how it will help you.
  2. Is there a special group of people that you want to address? What is it that moves these people?
  3. Write a headline that would also catch your interest when you would see it on any random page
  4. Write with someone as your target persona in mind. This can be you in case you want to share specific problem solving that you’ve found out with others.
  5. Structure the content in a way that is useful for you and for others. No one likes to read lengthy blog posts that only consist of text with no headlines and no pictures.
  6. Ask others for feedback or put a call to action there. There is a reason why you wrote the blog, you found it when thinking about point 1 – the goal.
  7. Write your first blog post today, then follow-up and continue. Be strict to yourself it will pay out soon. Once you’ve written a few posts it will get easier and feel more natural.

Checklist for your first blog post

Once you’ve written your first blog post you can use this checklist to see if you thought of everything.
From my own experience writing a blog post you’re looking at the following structure time-wise:
  • drafting 10%
  • writing + reviewing content 30%
  • finding a good headline 20%
  • putting appropriate pictures that transport your idea 40%
These numbers are just a rough guideline.
Looking for the right pictures I normally do at the very end before publishing the blog, because it’s the most time consuming part. I’d rather publish the blog post with just text than not publishing it at all because I start first looking for pictures, don’t find any and getting frustrated.
So now it’s the time. If you don’t have a blogger account create one and start blogging away. In case you have difficulties with it leave a comment and I’ll see how I could help you overcome the first and biggest hurdle.
Thx for reading,

Value Flow final – lean on “Lean”

Hi all,

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.

Systems Thinking

  • 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.

Motivate Management 

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:
  1. improve processes in the technical area; directly after that implement cultural change
  2. First doing, training comes after. Theories are nice, results are better.
  3. Use value stream maps to develop models that can be used as a “go and see” example
  4. With the help of these value stream maps create a future state vision that enables people to “learn to see”
  5. Kaizen-workshops can boost improvements on the way to the future state
  6. Re-organize around your value streams
  7. Make the transformation mandatory
  8. Use a crisis to switch to lean as a last resort
  9. Find “short-term” improvements with big financial impact to boost your movement
  10. Change your metrics to reflect your value streams perspective, e.g. throughput time
  11. Create your own lean company culture that can be seen as your DNA
  12. Hire or develop lean leaders and follow up with a succession system. If the top is not driving the transformation it will not happen.
  13. 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,