Sunday, May 16, 2010

Getting to Lean Principles

I had the opportunity to work with some IT execs who wanted to look at Lean thinking as a method to improve the way they were delivering value to their business customers.

Lean ideas was certainly not something that was embraced by the org, and certainly not all of the execs were bought in to Lean ideas, or even had a real understanding of how lean thinking could even be applicable to their problems. In preparation for a one day visioning session, our team sent out a questionnaire asking the execs to match specific organizational objectives to various possible activities.

Here is an example question:

The IT organization should manage process changes through:
- a specialized and dedicated process governance group
- empowering people on the ground doing the work
- assigning process change authority exclusively to middle management
- Senior executive oversight

While the "right" lean answer ( in quotes because no answer is exclusively right) may seem obvious to most readers of this blog, I thought it was important to test the beliefs and opinions of this group to see if anyone would be challenged philosophically about lean thinking.

All to often I've encountered belief systems that make it really difficult to have even a cursory conversation of how lean can help IT liver better value.

I was pleasantly surprised about the answers I received. While they weren't unanimous, the majority of responses indicated an intuitive affinity with a Lean way of thinking amongst most of the execs. With a little bit of grammatical restructuring we were able to take these answers and use them as the basis for a set of transformation principles that would guide this organizations journey to a different way of doing work.

Below are the principles, which I think are good ones for any org looking to adopt elements of lean thinking..

Empower process changes through: people on-the-ground doing the work

Leadership and Management should: coach, empower and enable

Manage priorities and requirements by: partnering with the client and collaboratively defining product roadmaps for each LOB

View automation as: a priority across all projects and applied to all aspects of the delivery lifecycle

The key measure of team success should be: client satisfaction of value delivered vs. time to deliver

Handle work based on: structuring work into small batches that can be released quickly

Build value through delivery by: getting resources working collaboratively and in cross-functional teams throughout the process

Approach quality: by investing early on and building in quality

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