Currently, I am taking a course Lean IT Foundation. I like it, because most Lean topics are about a production environment. To create something physical is appearantly easier to map than to create a service. There is however a little trap.
Focus on the wrong value
I truly do not know if it occurs in all Lean IT books, but one thing which drew my attention was the focus on the product or service (software package or SaaS). It said:
“Express value in terms of a specific product and/or service.”
This piece of text lacks the added value for the customer. After all, Lean working is all about adding value to the customer by creating a product or providing a service.
As I understand that the (higher) management needs tools and metrics as a prove a Lean transition is actually working, Lean working starts with the mindset. And with a proper value stream map (VSM).
Lean is not just a set of tools
Even though the sources are very proper, the emphasis on using tools is significant. Perhaps it is because IT-workers need the use of tools, or IT-workers cannot (or will not) understand a philosophic approach. I do not know. I even do not know what the intention of focusing on tools actually is. All I know is that the focus on the added value to the customer is lost somewhere.
The Lean tools are very helpful, for what they are: tools. The seperate tools are not to be mistaken for methods, because there is one method only, and that is Lean.
Speaking of tools, what I miss most is the focus on the Gemba walks. In a true Lean company, it is important that the (higher) management is ‘on the floor’ regularly, where the work is done. This deepens the understanding of the daily challenges the co-workers face. Mr. Taiichi Ohno, founder of the Toyota Production System based on the Toyota Way, states that:
“The time that provides me with the most vital information about management is the time I spend in the plant, not in the vice president’s office” (from: Toyota Production System: beyond large-scale production).
If Mr. Ohno states this, there should be some truth in it, shouldn’t it?
Starting from need
The title of the first chapter of Mr. Ohno’s book. That should learn us – Lean workers – something. We have to start working from the need. The course material states that a change agent is needed, and this is true. On higher level, a change manager may be needed as well. Not because the change agent does not see what has to happen, but because the higher management may feel comfortable with a change manager, preferably from a renowned consultancy agency. Neither of them have got to have thorough understanding of Lean: they are here to change they company culture and prepare everyone for the Lean transition.
Long term philosophy
The focus on tools may blur the focus on an other subject: the long term philosophy. Lean (and the Toyota Way) is about sustainability. So the employees in a Lean business, whether it is a production or service environment, must be aware that it is not all about the quick wins. On one hand, quick wins provide ‘proof’ that a Lean transition works, even recognizable on the floor. On the other hand, quick wins do not guarantee sustainability. The long term philosophy should be incorporated throughout the company, and so yes: you and I – we on the floor – should be (made) aware of this.
“The most important factors for success are patience, a focus on long-term rather than short-term results, revinvestment in people, product and plant, and an unforgiving commitment to quality.”
Robert B. McCurry, former Executive VP, Toyota Motor Sales
From: The Toyota Way (Jeffrey K. Liker)
Because it is not only about the company, it is also about our jobs.
Is it worth taking the course?
That is a hearthy yes! Because after all, it is a Foundations training, providing all that is needed for a basic Lean (IT) understanding. When this is your goal, it is certainly worth the money. Since a proper Lean transition is usually lead by a trained and skilled person, he or she will take into consideration what is missing in this course. And you (and I) can learn from it.
A true understanding of Lean doesn’t come from books… it comes from practicing it vigorously. Every day. #GoingLean
— Janneke (@jj_korbee) 7 februari 2014