Using Lean-Agile to Provide the Real Value of ALM


Insights from Lean
I observed this phenomenon because we kept finding teams that our previously successful methods could not help. As time went on, however, I saw that a few principles of Lean, as I learned them in a deeper way, seemed to always apply and to always provide insights into how to overcome these disparate challenges. The primary insights were:

  • Look to see how to shorten the cycle time (time from idea concept to customer consumption)
  • Be wary of improvements achieved by focusing on one area—they could adversely affect other areas—that is, one must look at optimizing the whole, not one section
  • Be aware that the source of a problem may occur well before where the problem is observed
  • Attend to time, not productivity (see my blog Learning to Manage What Matters – Not Always Intuitive)
  • Eliminating delays between steps improves productivity and quality
  • Conversely, delays between steps actually causes more work to be done
  • Higher quality can be achieved by doing the right thing at the right time with the right people without adding to the amount of work to be done
  • Close knit teams do not work in the same way as individuals from different teams trying to work together
  • Managing how much work you have at any one step can achieve great results in quality and cost
  • The amount of work given to a development group can affect their efficiency more than anything else
  • The system that teams work in (e.g., are they co-located, do they have easy access to others they need) has a significant impact on them—often stifling their abilities and skills

This article is about using Lean principles, attitudes and mindsets to discover where your challenges are, and what you need to attend to solve them. It is about integrating the different steps in your methods so that all of those involved can keep their eye on the goal—value achieved by the customer. The times of easy improvements achieved by teams that embraced Agile and focused on delivering value iteratively are over. As Agile has crossed the chasm, these easy situations have most likely been encountered and solved. As we’ve jumped across the chasm, we have found situations where the standard team-based agile methods do not work nearly as well or at all. The Agile community’s focus on team-based Agile methods has been met with frustration by many and is creating a backlash against Agile in general. It is important that we not ascribe flaws to these later adopters and casually explain away their challenges. We must realize that methods that have worked in certain situations just do not work in others. 

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