This is an email conversation that I had with @flowchainsensei (Bob Marshall of http://www.fallingblossoms.com) Following his talk about Lean at Skills Matter on Tuesday night.
Just a few thoughts on your talk on Tuesday night - I'll share these with you privately, but would actually like to post them (or some bits) as a blog post if you were OK with that.
Convincing people that you're an authority on the problem
I think you did this pretty well. Let me give you my paraphrasing of what the problem is and see if you agree with it. By removing wasted effort from a project, projects can be easily 2-3 times as productive, quite easily 5 times as productive, and possible 1000 times as productive. The bulk of project teams are manager to remove only about 20% of the waste.
Not too sure you've paraphrased what I was trying to say - although you may have paraphrased what I actually did say - or more importantly what you and some other folks heard at the time... :} For the avoidance of confusion though, please allow me to recap:
The problem (as I see it) is that people in tech businesses across the board, but particularly people in positions of "responsibility" don't realise just how much time, effort , money, human potential, etc. their businesses are wasting presently just doing "business as usual". This lack of realisation stems, at least in, part from a lack of awareness of just how much more effective some (few) organisations are than their business is.
So the typical (near-median) organisation is wasting around 80% of all the effort, etc. it's putting into developing software-intensive products and services. Every day.
Note in particular my focus on life (and effectiveness) at the organisational level, as compared to the project level - where most of the agile folks, including the industry's thought leaders, tend to dwell. Indeed it is my assertion that organisations cannot get past x3 on the Rightshifting scale by optimising at the local (project) level.
Convincing people that you're an authority on the solution
The result of this claim from the audience was "OK, who are these people. What are they doing that is so different?" I think here you were missing war stories. Don't you think, this is a substantial part of what people want to hear from a consultant? I think here, people would want to hear about super-performing teams, especially super-performing teams inside big organisations that didn't bring about their own destruction or removal. I think you could have "Landed the plane" if you could have had some good war stories about teams that were around 100% phase, you, or someone else suggested they do some stuff and then they moved to the 200% phase. then they got stuck, then some crisis happened and they realised that they could move to the %500 phase, and now they've all retired to the Maldives.
You're so right about the value of war stories and how these help people relate, engage. Unfortunately there just aren't many (any?) of these stories to be had. At least, I can't find them - not about highly effective organisations anyhow. One or two do spring to mind (Motek, GE Engines North Carolina) so I'll remember to mention these in future. And of course there's FlowChain - which is more a work of Science Fiction than fact at present, but hopefully a compelling story nonetheless. Hope to do a FlowChain session soon.
If the system isn't the people, then what is it? You might have a very good answer to this, but I don't think you made this clear. I think you can image what this might be for a Ford-style production line, but in the TPS, surely the people and the knowledge and practices that they have are an integral part of "the" system. I think I read an article in the Economist which cited the lack of sufficiently-trained sensei as a reason why Toyota have stumble as they became world's biggest car producer.
Also, I can understand that there's a tier or management that needs to look at the organisation as a "system" and to some degree not think about the individuals and their talents - this wasn't your audience here. These were people inside the system.
I like to think I have a good answer to this. Thanks for point out my lack of clarity here. Ben and David Joyce have been talking about introducing folks to Deming's Red Bead experiment btw. And Martine Devos is looking for helpers to devise a Lean game to this end too. In the same way that a "team" is people, but more than just the people, for me a "system" of work is a similarly distinct thing.
And no coincidence that I'm FlowChainSensei :)
As for the demographic of the audience, yes my message has most value for executives, and they just don't go to these kind of events. I'm speaking at a Valtech event at the end of September where the the demographic might be more closely aligned. But I disagree fundamentally that people inside the system should not concern themselves with that system.
You mentioned a lot of books. This is good for me because I read a lot of books, but many people who can read chose not to - especially, the kind of people who buy consultancy and attend talks and training. You can't answer their questions by pointing them to a book. I (ha ha) read somewhere that people divide into how, why, what and what if. I think there are readers in all those categories but readers tend towards the "why"/"what if" categories. I struggle especially with "how" people because the only way that you can get through to them is to actually physically get them to do it themselves. You can give them reasons until you're blue in the face.
I point people to books as a short-cut to me taking time to explain a certain topic, issue, subject or solution. Not that I resent the time necessary for effective explanation, (just the opposite, in fact) - it's just that in a time-limited session like Tuesday, I prefer to cover ground rather than dwell on one thing for too long. Agree with your observation about "how" people. Although I'd say that most people are "how" people to some extent.
I think if you want to reach everybody you need some kind of activities that let the "how" people feel what it's like to make processes more effective in a Lean way. "What" people are in some ways even more difficult, because they want to know exactly what they should do in their own situation. This is made even harder since I got the feeling that many people in the audience were middle-level people in big organisations. What's the one thing they can do to improve their team and make the organisation more Lean?
Agree with your point about activities. I like practical workshops with games, simulations, etc. Again a time thing (although maybe that's too glibly dismissive an answer? - for which I apologise). What's the one thing? In my opinion: Learn to see waste (or in TOC terms, learn to see bottlenecks). Hence one justification for the Rightshifting "campaign": To present people with the mere possibility that there could be much more waste in their organisations that they've heretofore realised / considered / conceived. Once someone accepts that this possibility exists, they may just be inclined to keep an eye out for waste.
If this is so great, why isn't everybody doing it?
I wasn't convinced by your explanations of why the hump is focussed around 20% efficiency. Is it really "inertia" or that "people are just stupid?" Do you really have to bomb a country flat and then get control of 90% of a country's capital in one room before you can make a change (as Deming supposedly did with Japan)?
Honestly, I just don't KNOW why organisations (and more relevantly, executives) are prepared to tolerate 80% waste (or more) in their organisation approach to software and tech product development. Other aspects of organisational ineffectiveness are less tolerated, I'd say. So why is the problem so acute in our "profession"? I have a coherent theory (see "Current Reality Tree" document http://www.fallingblossoms.com/opinion/content?id=1003 on my website), which involves a number of factors. And Rightshifting is my solution.
One way that I think about this is to think that however appallingly an organisation works, there is a sense in which it's "working perfectly" that is, it's in some form of equilibrium. Of course, one way to shift an equilibrium is to create a crisis, but another is to gently change a whole bunch of things until a new, higher stable state suddenly reveals itself - Jeff Sutherland talks about these "punctuated equilibria". Again, I think this might be rich territory for a set of "calls" to action for mid-level people. How can they move to make the ground more fertile for a shift towards being a Lean organisation. Otherwise, there's a danger that the message is "you can't get there from here."
Agreed. And the most common equilibrium state is generally round the 80% waste mark for tech businesses. :(
I many organisations I have seen, I truly believe that they "can't get there from here" - and their only future is to remain at their present level of equilibrium and hope that their left-drift remains slow enough that they can stay in business.
I think we have to accept that organisations generally have a (latent, hidden) reason for being, often far removed from their ostensible purpose of making a profit, or whatever. And often, that latent purpose is dysfunctional (from a societal point of view, not least). In people we call the resulting discomfort "cognitive dissonance". I'd go so far as to say that in organisations, the result of such dysfunction is ineffectiveness.
PS Lets meet up and chat soon.
Would love to! Just not this week - too much Python to do, deadline approaches! :)
For further information, contact Mark@agilelab.co.uk (07736 807 604)
Labels: Agile, consultancy, Lean