Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going to the Gemba for Agilists

John Shook's latest e-letter, How to Go to the Gemba: Go See, Ask Why, Show Respect covers four main perspectives from which people generally observe work when going to the Gemba:
  1. Solution View - hunting for opportunities to use Lean tools. Tempting but risky - since it implies a hazardous rush to conclusions - potentially disruptive for continuous improvement if used on its own.
  2. Waste View - keeping an eye out for wastes of various kinds. Useful, and should be handled carefully so as not to pursue local optimization to the detriment of global outcomes.
  3. Problem View - confirming and inquiring into impediments. Handy, and may take many shapes - its weakness (and opportunity) lies in the fact that it lacks an in-built structure. Various problem-solving approaches can be devised to suit the team and organization's context.
  4. Kaizen View - seeking patterns, forms, routines. By engaging the people doing the value-adding work into a structured problem-solving pattern, this is the strongest choice.

What does this mean for the business of software-intensive systems development? The ideas apply directly - no significant adjustment required.

To achieve continuous improvement, we must start by respecting our engineers, encouraging and supporting them to create improvements to their work processes, in addition to creating and enhancing features for the systems they develop. We trust them to create intricate engineering constructs. Surely they're best placed to design the improvements to their work processes as well.

We have a responsibility to develop ourselves and our colleagues into intense noticers and tenacious experimenters. We must challenge each other to create better systems that create products in addition to creating the great products themselves.

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