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Getting Lean part II – Meeting My Mentor

First meeting mentor-apprentice

We decided to spend some four hours together, including lunch. We ended up meeting at my home for practical reasons. We, that means my mentor Anders Häggkvist and myself. Anders has worked many years with processes and the last four years exclusively with Lean. In addition he is certified in Lean – something we will come back to in a later discussion. I think I will do an interview on that subject because I am really curious to what it has given him.

Anders started by asking me what I want I want from the sessions we have together, what are my goals? Now that is a good question to start with but something that is often forgotten when we build IT-systems, we do not really need functions – we need to achieve something and that may or may not be done best by building a function. Likewise I want to know about the true meaning of Lean – if there is one – and how to help organisations implement Lean- because I want to be able to do this on my own. Listing my own goals was one of the first things we did:

1. Learning the theory of Lean thinking

2. Understanding how Lean projects are done – examples from the real world

3. Participate actively in Lean projects as a complement to testing

Anders talking about Lean basics

There are many interpretations of Lean – many of them missing the essence of the philosophy behind. Many books are written that focus on the TPS, which is production of goods. A common first argument against Lean is “But our organization does not produce goods, how can Lean apply to us?” Well at Toyota, Lean is part of ALL work, not only the production of cars. That’s why you need to read the books about Lean Leadership Tobbe! The same principles apply regardless of what you do. We are going to dig into Lean for "service providers" but not so much for factory production.

One of the most important principles is go to gemba – go to the place where the work is done and see for yourself. You cannot make excellent decisions unless you truly understand the problem. We then discussed the problems many Swedish companies face when they are bought and become part of a much larger organization. Decisions start to made far away from where work actually happens. This is the opposite of Lean – instead of using the knowledge and competence of the local employees, managers far away make inferior decisions that are not accepted and thus employees leave. We see it happen over and over again.

For SW development one large problem is that we are too far away from the future users. If we are lucky there is some requirements analyst that is given access to some person that represent at least part of the future users. Then the analyst has to try to put all this knowledge in some – often formalized – documentation that testers and developers interpret and try to satisfy. No wonder we get unsatisfied users! Compare this to the “power of three” meeting where users, developers and testers together discuss what to build. Whenever we have these meetings continuously – the complaints during acceptance tests are almost non-existing. This is Lean – doing the right thing the first time, getting close to the end user.  Spending a day with your customer at work can be very revealing to what their problems really are.

We talked about effect-mapping (similar to impact mapping) and I showed the map I made for the current project. This is a lean tool! We often create it in a table format but the idea is the same. We use the five why to understand the root cause to a problem and also the real(root) needs of future users.

Time for a lunch break with fried Pike-perch (Gös), mashed potatoes and parmesan-ream made of sour cream, white wine and lots of cheese. We had to drink water instead of the rest of the Saint Clair since some of us had to drive and others pick children up at school. In both cases smelling of wine would be less than optimal.

Summing up our first meeting we created a...

Plan for the Near Future

1. Update my CV so that it clearly reflects the things that I have worked with and want to work with in the future. Highlight any Lean or management efforts so they do not drown in the sea of testing assignments I have done.  (Tobbe)

2. Read two books on Lean Leadership – starting with Lean Leadership: Liker, Convis(Tobbe)

3. Blogg about what I learn as an exercise of structuring my knowledge and to show the world that I am going Lean(Tobbe)

4. Participating in some Lean assignments during 2013. (Anders will look into opportunities)

Of the above I have updated my CV and written two blog posts. Now getting ready for next mentor meeting on Friday. Sprints are fairly short I say!