On the spot training with the folding chair

X — Funny how you have more chairs than people in your office ! I’d thought they should be placed in the meeting room.

Me — Have you noticed as well how simple these are ? Foldable and light, they actually have a very different purpose from the classical « office chair » with a set of wheels for mobility and adjustable height.

One of the folding chairs in the office

X — Don’t tell my there’s some Lean thinking behind them! I was actually joking when I hinted they could be a form of waste.

Me — Well, we do try to avoid meetings but we do need to coordinate actions. For example, when a junior developer wants to get his latest piece of code reviewed, he could add a patch to some digital queue and wait for someone else to pull it for review.

X — Yeah, I guess that would be lean in some way : there’s a pull system there.

Me — But what we actually want is to flow. Wouldn’t it be much better if the junior developer in question could commit his patch directly to the main trunk?

X — But that would require a very strict set of rules to follow, and procedures, and guidelines, and …

Me — Training.

X — You’ve lost me there.

Me — Every time he needs to have some code reviewed, one of the senior developer would grab the folding chair, sit next to him, and start a live review. It’s actually an opportunity to get some training as soon as possible, to create a feedback loop as close as possible to the work being done, when everything is still fresh in the head. And to put him on track to be able to commit his changes on his own.

X — So you don’t have any rules to follow and procedures and guidelines?

Me — Off course we do ! For example, we are in the underscore family (camelCaseStyle is banned) and force brackets in IF statement (even if PHP doesn’t care). We even have tests catching up common errors like forgetting translations or minification of CSS files.

X — Automated guidelines beyond the compiler!? Now that’s food for thought…

Lost in Lean's translation

X — With all these Japanese words dotted around lean literature, it must be difficult to spread the knowledge around.

Me — Sometimes having difficult words can be an asset : take lean for instance, it’s probably impossible to translate in any language. Certainly not in French for instance : maigre doesn’t quite sound right for any thoughtful way to do stuff.

X — I was speaking about the Japanese stuff…

Me — Well I did learn some Lean stuff while not speaking any Japanese at all. Andon, Gemba and Kanban are not that difficult to grasp. Kanban for instance is only a tangible sign made of paper or metal…

X, interupting — Hold on, we’re both in the tech world and we know Kanban is something else altogether : it’s just a board with 3 columns To Do, Doing and Done.

Me — Alas… Old Lean senseis would be devastated to hear such nonsense. This kind of board is not event showing the lead time for each task : there’s no space whatsoever for any self-reflection. It’s only good enough - at best - to cap the work-in-progress. It’s missing the entire chain of help that’s crucial for any lean initiative for instance. It feels like some consultant found a gem in the old manufacturing literature and set up a big tent on his way back from the mine with a big neon light flashing « you too can have a glimpse of the gem I found, and you know what, you don’t have to go down there : I did all the work for you ».

X — I can feel the irony and the sorrow in your last tirade.

Me — Indeed the door is wide open but remains very small. And the world is getting bigger and fatter, with more money, more processes and more bureaucracies. I’m just waiting for the interest rates to go up and resources to become scarce : Lean’s true potential will be felt more widely then. Not before unfortunately.

X — That sounds gloomy.

Me — That’s probably because you haven’t heard the news about climate change and all the rest of it : they’re a real cause for concern. Off course, you can look out for true Lean companies doing incredible stuff with Karakuri Kaizen or Lean & Green. But in the meantime, don’t forget that better quality brings profitability and faster lead-times brings cash.

X — Are you joking? The entire world heard about the « Just-in-time » rout.

Me — That’s what happens when Japanese engineers use a catchy name for a new concept : it was supposed to mean « at the right time, not before, not after ». In Toyota, everyone knows you can’t finish a car if you’re missing one piece. That’s the reason they started stockpiling chips when they understood - before everyone else - a shortage was coming. Only Tesla is trying some other way, selling car without the USB port.

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