Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Importance of Process Oriented Thinking

I recently learned that my organization is looking to adopt Agile practices on a larger scale.

My goal is to help my team adapt to the coming changes. I want them to understand the practices deeply, feel empowered in the process. I believe this means understanding effectiveness and efficiency at their core. Process oriented thinking focused on effectiveness is key.

One of the most common misses in Agile trainings given to staff, is the non-emphasis on a culture of effectiveness.

I've seen the tenets of the Agile Manifesto and the concept of "self-organizing teams" get distorted and misapplied in sad ways. For example I've worked with teams who consider themselves Agile because they have a daily scrum where status is given, yet nothing else changes. I've met leaders who quote the term self-organizing in the context of not challenging their teams to deliver quality.

Is it any wonder some teams feel "Agile doesn't work".

If you've adopted Agile, your results don't improve, and your teams are as unhappy as ever: you've not adopted Agile!

One of the mistakes corporations make is to adopt Agile as the new dogma. While Agile practices are a systematization of common sense, if you adopt the system while leaving common sense behind, you won't succeed. Having iterations, daily stand-ups, user stories, story points and iteration managers doesn't mean we close our eyes and stop applying common sense.

I find concepts from Lean Manufacturing to be helpful to this end. I decided to convey to my team by sharing Wikipedia articles and quoting the most salient parts for those who won't take the time to read the whole article. I like Wikipedia and other reputable sites for this purpose, because they represent documented practices well accepted and understood by many.

First installment:

Definitions of process ceremony (low-ceremony vs. high-ceremony)

Kaizen and Continuous Improvement:
The core principle of CIP is the (self) reflection of processes.(Feedback)
The purpose of CIP is the identification, reduction, and elimination of suboptimal processes.(Efficiency)
The emphasis of CIP is on incremental, continuous steps rather than giant leaps. (Evolution)
More about Kaizen:
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work ("muri"), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity: "The idea is to nurture the company's human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities."[5] Successful implementation requires "the participation of workers in the improvement."
Lean Manufacturing:
Essentially, lean is centered on preserving value with less work.
Lean manufacturing is a variation on the theme of efficiency based on optimizing flow; it is a present-day instance of the recurring theme in human history toward increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and using empirical methods to decide what matters, rather than uncritically accepting pre-existing ideas.
7 Types of waste in manufacturing: About Muda
T: Transportation
I: Inventory
M: Motion
W: Wait
O: Over-processing
O: Over-production
D: Defect