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#LK2009 Tabaka, Hsu, and Shalloway

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: #LK2009 Tabaka, Hsu, and Shalloway

Okay… I am on the verge of becoming a whiner here. All these talks are so good, it is exhausting to try and get them summarized in real time. I am surely missing many key and interesting points. I have a request out to the other conference attendees to comment on these posts to either add or correct any of my perceptions.

BTW – This will be the last post of the day but we’ll resume the discussion tomorrow. Friday is Open Space so we’ll have to see what to do about that one… not sure it will lend itself to that kind of summarization.

Jean Tabaka: Learning to be Lean

Jean has decided to take the room in yet another direction. Her talk centers around learning… and how we learn to be Lean. She kicks the talk off by introducing the 5 orders of ignorance. We move from having no process for discovery all the way to a lack of ignorance… actually being informed. She encourages us to be intentional about how organizations learn and how they can learn to adopt lean.

Jean’s talk emphasized the idea that we have to be conscious about being systems thinkers… we need to stay focused on the whole. She discussed very tactical things like feedback loops and queing theory… but all that technical stuff was not really her main focus. She made the point that practices are secondary to how the organization thinks about itself and how it delivers value. She talks about how the mental the organizations mental model shapes how it behaves.

We need to focus on organizational change… how the transition is going to impact people… metrics… and compensation… and less on whether we implement Scrum or XP or Lean. Very often we implement practices without putting in the underlying scaffolding and how this can be detrimental to the long term success of any change initiative. My favorite point Jean made was that we need to look at the entire system… how the nature of the system needs to inform our thinking… and then how our thinking can inform our decisions about what tools we select.

Like everyone else, Jean’s talk was very rich and full of great ideas and great examples… this was my best distillation of the essence of what she had to say.

Alina Hsu: Lean Beyond Software Development

Alina is a functional manager that has managed developers, testers, and analysts. Right now she is focused on lean process improvement as a consultant for her current company. Her focus is on IT service management and project management from more of a business perspective.

If you haven’t noticed, I am writing these summaries in real time as the speaker is doing their talk. The model so far is to jot down all the cool thoughts, put together some summarization stuff on the fly, and then as the speaker is wrapping up… see if I can slam down a complete summary of the presentation. So… that said… I might have a better read on Alina’s talk if I were paying more attention, but right now I am not sure where she is going.

Right now we are about 70% through the talk and she appears to be explaining the intricacies and challenges with a previous COTS projects. She is touching on the idea of respecting people and the need to optimize the whole. She introduces the idea of eliminating waste and delivering value and the impact of poor decision making, frequent delays, rework, and even wrong work.

As Alina closes the talk, she is discussing the need to define the big picture up front, timebox everything, short feedback cycles, standard work patterns, decision making and communication patterns, the importance of having flexible architecture. Okay… got it… I just needed everything pulled together a little bit. It is a bit ironic that a talk on Lean thinking seems to have focused on the parts with little attention to the whole.

If anyone else out there got more from this talk than I did, please chime in… I am wearing out so maybe I missed something early that could have tied it all together a bit better.

Alan Shalloway: Redefining Lean… Creating a Model to Understand Product (and Software) Development

Okay… I have formally worn out summarizing these talks so Alan Shalloway is going to get the bums rush. What’s cool about Alan is that he has a vision for where all this needs to go and his passion comes through in how he talks about this.

Alan believes that the Toyota Production System does not equal lean but that TPS is a special instance of Lean. As we move Lean forward, the state of the art will come from the intersection of three angles: Lean Science, Lean Management, and Lean Education.

Just like Jim Sutton, Alan want to save the middle class but is not confident he is able to change organizational culture at scale. He does believe that through the application of lean principles he can help organizations get better. Simple things like colocation… limiting work in progress… single team assignments… putting everyone under the same manager…can cause a 3x improvement – even in a waterfall team.

If this is so simple… why aren’t we doing more? It seems that we only change when we have pressure to change. Sometimes we know the right practice but we don’t always do it because we don’t know why it works.

Culture is an idea arising from experience. Lean practices support the organizations need to change… the practices support the mindset we are trying to achieve. Great talk… but I am ready for a beer.

Next #LK2009 Shalloway, Leffingwell, and Middleton

Comment (1)

  1. Jean Tabaka


    Thanks for your capture and review of my talk, “Learning to Lean” at the Lean Kanban Conference! You are a great reporter and I value your perceptions of what you gleaned from each of the talks. One of the threads throughout the case studies that struck me, well surprised me even, was the tight correlation of a team’s adoption of the Kanban practice and its dramatic increase in collaboration. I TOTALLY loved that! We had several discussions about this at the conference: why was this true; what is it about Kanban that uniquely positions itself for higher adoption of collaborative teams? One idea was the simplicity of rules and the removal of anxiety around fixed timeboxes (something Karl Scotland touched on.)

    In any case, along with all of that, I wanted to also introduce a notion that, as we are “Learning to Lean”, I am hopeful that we very intentionally “Lean to Learn”. That is, I believe that a Lean underpinning is learning, and removing the waste of re-learning. So, let’s remove the anxiety, let’s keep up the collaboration, and let’s lean to learn! Jean


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