(Talk given at London Continuous Delivery meetup group, November 2014)
Many folks drinking the Lean coolade seem to believe that removing waste is at the heart of the Lean approach. I beg to differ. I’d say that improving flow is the heart of Lean.
Here’s seven ways in which your team or, preferably, your organisation as a whole, might go about improving flow:
1. Adopt a small thing as the universal unit of work. And by universal, I mean some unit of work that everyone across the whole organisation can recognise and adopt. This could be Use Cases, User Stories, or something else. Just keep the “small thing” small (never more than a couple of days work for a couple of people). cf Heijunka, FlowChain
2. Make flow visible. In particular, make e.g. queues, queuing times, and end-to-end cycles times visible for all to see.
3. Know your WIP (work in progress) and work to reduce (limit) it. Cf. Little’s Law
4. Use demand to “pull” units of work through the system (as opposed to “pushing” work through).
5. Eliminate – or at least minimise – hand-offs. That is, having work pass from one specialist to another. Each hand-off typically introduces another queue, with the inevitable costs and delays. One way to do this involves multi-disciplinary teams, or better still, up-skilling individuals so each person can competently take on a variety of specialist tasks.
6. Identify the goal; understand demand (by various means – for example follow individual “demands” through the system, end-to-end;) identify the constraint; and apply the Five Focussing Steps (repeatedly). Cf. Theory of Constraints
7. Experiment continually: trial possible improvements to flow, one by one, to assess their actual efficacy, in isolation from one another. Cf. PDCA a.k.a. the Shewhart Cycle
And of course, none of the above suggestions will do much good, or even get acted on, unless and until the folks doing the work internalise a basic appreciation of the very notion of flow. And that’s unlikely to happen unless and until the work environment supports and nurtures folks’ curiosity and innate desire to do a good job.”
Bob Marshall has dedicated his career to helping businesses dramatically improve the effectiveness of their software development and design engineering efforts. In the course of this career he has worked at the cutting edge of software and business systems development for the best part of thirty years.
Throughout, he has consistently inspired people to improve their own capabilities – along with those of their teams and organisations. He spent three years as founder and CEO of Familiar, Europe’s UK’s first one hundred percent Agile software house and consultancy start-up, serving major clients in Telecoms, Finance, Travel, Media, and eBusiness.
He has for the past fourteen years headed Falling Blossoms – a Software Development Management Consultancy advising organisations how best to go about software-intensive product development in all its aspects.
Previously he held the role of Senior Java Architect with Sun Microsystems’ UK Java Center, and before that fulfilled many innovation-facing roles, from developer, analyst, designer and architect, through product-, project- and general management, consultancy, systems administration and QA, to operations, marketing and sales.
With a keen focus on business value, able to de-risk client projects and provide guaranteed outcomes, most of his assignments now revolve around working as a trusted advisor or interim executive to ambitious, growing technology-led companies, meeting the challenges involved in taking their businesses to the next level, and speeding the flow of innovation and value in their concept-to-cash pipelines.
He is the co-founder of the RIghtshifting movement, and the creator of the Marshall Model (Dreyfus for the organisation), as well as Prod•gnosis, Emotioneering and FlowChain; the enterprise-wide approach to developing software-intensive products and services.
He has pioneered the application of psychology and psychotherapy techniques to software development, and these days, he most often works under the title of “Organisational Psychotherapist”