The Lean-Agile Prism: Going Beyond The Agile Triangle


and less mistakes are made than with manual process; and by-the-way customers appreciate the speed and accuracy of the service.” This still leaves some loose ends.


III. The lean-agile prism

Mike showed me the diverse features of the software at the physical location within the hotel where they are actually used, which was the right thing to do. We started with the front desk, then other customer-related operations, and finally infrastructure. I was impressed in two opposite ways. On the one hand, there is this amazing system with broad scope and depth of operations automation. On the other hand, all the software the manager showed me looked and felt the same and extremely technical, no matter what the context was. To give you an idea, imagine you are using an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) tool to do your software development and, in addition, you are also browsing the net, using Gmail, Twittering, etc., all on separate windows (vs. tabs). Got the picture in your head? Good! Well… each of the applications Mike developed looked just the same, resulting on large stacks of windows; boring colors and fonts; poor flow of actions, very little human-error tolerance, no smooth sequence of operations, and so on. There were even moments in which Mike himself had to make pauses before going to the next step as he explained each feature’s functionality.

It was obvious that there was still some work to do on quality, and Mike admitted it. However, there was something much more important that was having a tremendous negative impact. I am referring to Design. For this specific example, the majority of the problems have to do with poor UI design. The different applications in the system should share a common UI language while at the same time allow each application to have its uniqueness to be effective within specific contexts. That way the system’s look and feel would be familiar to the entire hotel staff and at the same time be efficient within context.

Consider that you want to purchase a given application and shop around to find the best one for your needs. Your search narrows down the list of candidate applications to two of them. Once comparing them in detail you conclude that both applications have the same functionality, satisfy exactly the same set of needs, and have the same level of quality. Assuming you are not concerned about cost, which one would you buy? Very likely most of you answered something along the lines of “the one that I like best”; “the most impressive one”; or “the cool one”. This means that Design is a very important determinant for customer decision, and goes beyond just quality and value.

Deming, whose work influenced lean said that attention must be paid to systems, people, and the whole. Lean thinking tells us we must pay particular attention to delivered value to customer, both internal and external. Some may argue that design falls under the category of value. The way I see it, doing so would be similar to what the project management triangle did with quality by putting it as an implicit item in the middle of the triangle; or similar to saying that quality could also fall within value instead of having a place of its own, as suggested by Highsmith. Lean also puts a high emphasis on the human-factor (what Taiichi Ohno called autonomation and became better known as intelligent automation), only instead of the manufacturing perspective of humans controlling the flow of the automated process we apply the concept as human satisfaction as a motivation to

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