Michael Ballé's definition of Lean

In his latest article Michale Ballé asks a simple but profound question Where do you start with developing people?. Along the way he advocates a definition of Lean.

Overall, this is what lean is about:
- Plan, check where you are against plan, and think through the gap
- Have a team leader, coordinator or coach help you to actually look at the gap rather than avoid it
- Combine both to come up with something new to try and learn to stay cool out of your comfort zone

Andon will give you the frame for on-the-spot routine. Kanbans for a daily routine. Hoshin Kanri for a yearly routine. They are numerous other examples. But the secret sauce of Lean is to repeat over and over such simple steps: sustainability to bridge the gaps breeds success...

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…

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