Lean thoughts

Agile has been devoid of meaning. One of my customers claim they are doing agile in a clearly waterfallish organization. It is kind of cool that people WANT to be agile these days but it is NOT kind of cool that the meaning of agile has been watered out to mean 'good'. Lean to the rescue. To get on the track with the words and principles of lean I spent a couple of days last week at the LESS conference and here is a couple of thoughts emancipating from this experience merged with some own reflections. (Not a conference report......)

Lean is more macro than agile - it tries to fix the entire organization. One of the tracks were called 'beyond budgeting' and focused on how organizations can abandon their normal way of commanding and controlling in favor of a more fluid way of work. Key case studies: statoil and handelsbanken. (Note to self: ask sister at handelsbanken about how it 'feels' a bit down in the organization. Are they really entirely lean. It is not what I have heard...)

Lean that is forced upon a company from above is not really lean - it has to be embraced by the people on the floor also. You can not send in a team to leanify an organization.

Relative metrics. Absolute numbers is not useful in a fast changing world. It is much better to compare with similar companies.

The absence of lean presentations was a bit surprising. I am not a great presenter but I sure would be able to make better slides than most of the speakers here. Please spend some time with presentation zen.

Whats the deal with the lean A3 obsession?

It would have been sweet with more stuff on changing parts of a stale organization from the inside. If you are lost deep inside an old school organization - is there really anything you can do to start the change? I know - live by example and all that but it really doesn't bring much change about.

It is also a cultural change. Just adding a bunch of practices and values won't change a thing in the short run. Cultural changes to a large system has to be made incrementally and be measured over a long period of time. (Unless the big bang approach is used - then it is essentially a new system replacing the old one - not the same system that has learnt something.)

Lean is definitely up and coming and I predict that companies embracing the lean way today will be market leaders in the future. But we will also see lots of lean attempts that will fail. It is not the easiest thing to change feelings and behaviors of people.

Old comments

2011-11-09Vasco Duarte
Good write-up!

Just a note about the A3. In the Lean community A3 is not a tool only, it is also a way of thinking and coaching a team.

"Managing to Learn" http://www.lean.org/bookstore/productdetails.cfm?selectedproductid=246
This is one of the books that describes the thinking behind A3. I should note also that the A3 format (piece of paper) is just the visible part of the tool, as described in the book the thinking behind that format is much more important.

Agree on the presentation style! :)