Westerly Consulting

Due DiligenceDue_Diligence.html
Management AdvisoryManagement_Advisory.html
Contact UsContact_Us.html

Update: Agile/Lean Transformation

Is Lean far enough developed for you to adopt broadly?

Fred Engel

Westerly Consulting


As Agile receives broad adoption it is quickly broadening into a set of “Lean” methodologies.  These new methodologies are encompassing other departments that have impact on providing solutions to customers (internal or external). Lean methodologies represent a set of principles for how to approach work efficiently and effectively.  Lean succeeds because it is very business friendly.

Lean’s business focus provides greater flexibility, lower costs, better time to market and therefore better revenue growth and profit margin than other methodologies. The maturity of many of the Lean methodologies is such that several are developing their own following and certification programs. Luckily, these methodologies have an eco-system of trainers, consultants, applications, and literature that can aid in smooth adoption.

The term “Lean” is borrowed from manufacturing, which has been in transformation for more than 30 years, ever since Toyota showed us how to build great cars. Mary and Tom Poppendieck have been leading thinkers in this transformation, and have identified some key areas that Lean can help:

1.  Eliminate waste

2.  Amplify learning

3.  Decide as late as possible

4.  Deliver as fast as possible

5.  Empower the team

6.  Build integrity in

7.  See the whole

A key message from all these methodologies is that they are more business friendly than existing older methodologies. The Lean methodologies focus on doing more for less, which has always been attractive but elusive goal. They focus on embracing the flexibility that business requires. They empower people to take ownership of the work and of the improvement of the process. These methodologies are much more amenable to measurement and statistical analysis, largely because they have small iterations that can be measured with more statistical significance. Some of the measurements are for the teams alone, while others are for the business leaders. It is safe to say at this point, that the Lean/Agile methodologies, while generally a significant change to the processes, have proven to be a good step forward in the managing people, projects, and processes in general.

While the varying Lean methodologies cover a wide range of activities, at the core they leverage the same fundamental concepts.  One of the core concepts is breaking tasks into small pieces that are completed and verified before moving onto the next task, avoiding delays and thrashing. This creates constant progress as well as quick feedback to what has been done. Another core concept is Just-In-Time decision-making. When implemented properly, it provides much greater business flexibility as well as the minimization of waste. Another key concept is that setting aside unfinished can be thought of as inventory that ages, and therefore a potentially wasted investment. Another concept is to limit the Work in Process to avoid congestion. Lastly, a fundamental precept in all of these methodologies is that work is organized around empowering the teams and causing them rise to the occasion by forming Self Organized teams that provide much higher productivity.

Donald Reinertsen, another key thinker, has mapped the concepts found in Lean Manufacturing to the Software realm. He has created what I like to call “The Physics” of Lean. His core rules cover these areas:

1.  Economic Principles (21 rules

2.  Queuing Principles (16 rules)

3.  Variability Principles (16 rules)

4.  Batch Size Principles (22 rules)

5.  WIP Constraint Principles (23 rules)

6.  Flow Control Principles (30 rules)

7.  Fast Feedback Principles (24 rules)

8.  Decentralization Principles (23 rules)

While many of the methodologies have grown out of software development, their application to other parts of the organization is beginning to be well understood. In part, the organizations that support the product development organization (which is most of the company) need to move to a more Agile/Lean model if the Lean parts of the organization are to receive the complete benefit promised. Other organizations that receive requests that need to be processed and then delivered to a customer can also benefit from these methodologies.

The Value Stream Mapping process looks at all of the departments involved in delivering product or service to a customer in order to identify possible delays in the delivery process. It has become a key step in understanding how various parts of a company are affecting the delivery of a product or a service. The output Value Stream Mapping can result in transforming the entire process.

As these methodologies are moved into other parts of the organization their benefit to the broader audience is becoming apparent. The most frequent methodologies you will hear that apply more broadly are:

  1. 1.  Lean Software Development - a translation of lean manufacturing and lean IT principles and practices to the software development domain.

  2. 2.  Scrum - an iterative methodology for performing work.

  3. 3.  Kanban - a layered methodology that can improve almost any process without having to start with change.

  4. 4.  Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) - an agile project delivery framework, primarily used as a software development method

  5. 5.  Scaled Agile Framework – a methodology for scaling Agile to the entire organization.

  6. 6.  Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) - an agile project delivery framework, primarily used as a software development method

  7. 7.  Value Stream Mapping - a technique used to analyze and design the flow of work through an organization, identifying the steps and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer

  8. 8.  Beyond Budgeting Roundtable (BBRT) - promotes a set of principles that lead to more dynamic processes and front-line accountability

The maturity of these disciplines takes much of the risk out of adopting them.  At this point, most of the methodologies have “Crossed the Chasm” and can be thought of as mainstream. While they are complex and are frequently implemented incorrectly, there is enough evidence to demonstrate their viability. In general, initial training accompanied by coaching in the early deployments can avoid many pitfalls.

The maturity of these processes has led to training programs that are coupled with certification programs to provide guidance for those wishing to move to Lean. While there are many consulting and training companies out there (Westerly Consulting being one of them), the ones listed below are offered by the initial thinkers in each of these areas:

  1. 1.  SCRUM Alliance - http://www.scrumalliance.org/welcome_to_scrum_alliance

  2. 2.  Kanban - http://www.leankanbanuniversity.com/get-training/accredited-training

  3. 3.  Scaled Agile Framework - http://www.scaledagileacademy.com/

  4. 4.  Disciplined Agile Development - http://disciplinedagileconsortium.org/

  5. 5. DSDM - http://www.dsdm.org/prof-development/application-form/accredited-training/public-training-courses

Without trying to overstate the case, Lean provides for the office what it provided for manufacturing in the last 30 years. It promises to revolutionize the way organizations think about themselves and how they organize their people. When properly implemented, the flexibility, the lower cost, the improved morale, and the improved revenue and profits are very compelling. It is quite feasible that in the next 30 years most companies will adopt these methodologies through much of their organization.

Send comments to: fred@westerlyconsulting.com