With Lean, we're always making people

X — I noticed you finished up your last conversation mumbling about Jidoka: any insights since then?

Me — Glad you asked, I’ll be able to think again about TPS… I really need to do it from time to time. What did you find?

— A little wikipedia search brings up four principles: 1/ Detect the abnormality. 2/ Stop. 3/ Fix or correct the immediate condition. 4/ Investigate the root cause and install a countermeasure .

— You missed the separation for human work from machine work.

— But in the digital world, the human work is on a desktop by the developers while the machine work is on the servers. Easy, isn’t it?

— Ever saw the XKCD comic about "compiling"?

— Ah, touché.

— Fortunately we now have building environnements that will simply take the load on through Continuous integration. And if you’re lucky, Continuous Delivery as well.

— The "automate everything" of the software community...

— Remember if we can avoid automating the bad stuff, we’d be much better off. So we’re back at detecting bad stuff and we want to do that as soon as possible. We can start at the requirement: is it complete? Precise? Does it contain examples or context? Can the developer work on it straight away? Usually a check list will be the first step towards proper standards.

— I guess User Stories would fit the bill.

— You can call them whatever you want. What we’re looking for is a way of making sure the entire workplace learns to make good requirement day in day out. The key tool here is the andon.

— Again one of the those funny japanese words, isn’t?

— Not anymore, it’s actually a loanword now so you’ll get over the desire to translate it. It’s just a system to notify the local leader you spotted something wrong and need some help.

— But I’ve a team of about 15 devs, there’s no way I could fit all the meetings I need to attend to and their constant requests. I need them to be more autonomous.

— Well, in Lean, we tend to favor teams of 4 or 5 people. Including the team leader. And dealing with the andon is his first responsibility. The second is also straightforward: making sure a countermeasure is put in place to prevent the problem of occurring again.

— I thought we’d be talking about the pros and cons of unit testing versus integration testing.

— Of course they can help, you could even argue they can be a form of Poka Yoke, another lean tool for Jidoka. But please make sure you get you help chain right. Otherwise you’ll find out to late your devs were indeed autonomous, just going in the wrong directions.

— I can sense scarves behind such warning.

— One of my big lesson of Covid19… We’re always making people.