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.

Kanbans, and the art of not choosing

X — Look, this kanban is really easy, I’m sure I can do it in less than fifteen minutes.

Me — I’m sure you can but the kanbans board tells you something else, doesn’t it?

— I know, it’s in second position. There’s another kanban at the top.

— And…

— I guess it’s the one I should be working on next. But the problem is I don’t know how long it’s going to take : it’s one to those « red bin » kanban, we never know if it’s a 5 seconds fix or a 2 hours deep dive into old and obscure code.

— And from which one are you going to learn more ?

— Easy… The 2 hours deep dive. The other type is usually a simple condition someone forgot about : just looking at the log trace is usually enough to have an idea of the method that needs updating.

— Is this « 5 seconds / 2 hours » categorization the same for you and the rest of the team ?

— Of course not. For example, if it’s related to Javascript, it’s usually « 5 seconds » stuff for M.

Me, laughing
— And a « 2 hours » nightmare for me.

— But what if I’m really stuck.

— We’ve talked about the other button, haven’t we ? The orange « andon », right next to « red bin ».

— But if I click on it, I’ll be interrupting somebody else…

— That’s exactly the point : making sure you can draw the attention of anybody in the company while you’re dealing with your share of potentially difficult problems or bugs, improving your skills and learning new ones along the way.

— You mean it’s a privilege to be assigned those « red bin » kanbans?

Me, smiling — I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess it is…

  • page
  • 1