Enjoy this excerpt from the latest Lean Business Report. Download the full report here.
If we were to point to one defining challenge for businesses today, it would be innovating fast enough to keep up with the blistering pace of disruptive competition. Lean can help businesses do just that — but it relies on an evolved form of leadership to do so.
As Lean leaders, it’s our job to unlock all of the knowledge in our employees by aiming to give them — in Dan Pink’s words — autonomy, mastery, and purpose. We will get our best organizational results if we give our employees the autonomy to do their work their way. We can do that safely if we invest in their skills so they have the mastery to do the work well. And we will get the right outcomes, and recruit and retain the right people, if we provide clear and consistent information about our organizational purpose — not the dry “what” but the inspirational “why.”
To the uninitiated, Kanban might sound more like an appetizer you’d order at a sushi restaurant than a method of project management. Kanban may not be edible, but it is a Japanese export. It was created by a Japanese engineer at Toyota in the 1940s as a way to organize work and address inefficiencies in the company’s manufacturing system.
Kanban first piqued the interest of business leaders in the early 2000s, when it was primarily used to optimize software development workflows. Today, Kanban is being applied across all disciplines of knowledge work to help teams visualize, manage, and optimize their work.
Practicing Lean depends upon fostering a student mentality — recognizing what you don’t know, and approaching the unknown with a curious, humble mind. Whether you’re new to Lean or a seasoned expert, reading about the experiences and practices of others is an excellent way to practice a key Lean concept: continuous improvement. At LeanKit, when people ask us how to learn more about Lean, we often direct them to these excellent Lean books, written by our esteemed colleagues in the Lean community.
Different companies have different cultures, but timesheets are almost universally abhorred by the work force — and yet they continue to stick around. Why? Because timesheets are acutely intertwined with traditional IT budgeting processes. While workers may be peeved at the inconvenience of timesheets, leadership is looking to them to answer vital questions. Questions like:
- How predictable are we — do we consistently deliver value?
- Are we efficient — what is the capacity utilization of the staff?
- Are we straying from our budget — projected cost vs. actual cost?
- Is the headcount and skillset right — does the current staff level serve the organization well?
What is Lean Thinking?
“Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer; anything else is waste.” — Eric Ries
Testing, like Lean thinking is a mindset. Both are required to achieve a practice of continuous improvement. Consider how you “provide benefit to the customer”. The last work decision you made: was it to prioritize one piece of work over another, change a certain feature, or tweak your marketing messaging? How did you make that decision? And most importantly, how did you know that what you decided is what the customer actually wants?
Testing is the vehicle through which the accumulation of experience, insight, education and the constant reassessment of our assumptions allows us to better understand our target across all facets of their journey, first as a buyer and then a customer. It’s the method of eliminating waste by approaching our work with a curious, humble, and methodical mindset. These three key characteristics power the testing mindset needed to achieve continuous improvement.
This is part of a three-part series on keeping remote teams cohesive. We recommend that you begin with parts 1 (hiring) and 2 (onboarding) before reading this post on communication.
In the final installment of this series, I’ll discuss the importance of effective communication — over-communication, in fact — in remote teams. I’ll share the communication strategies and methods that I’ve seen be most effective for keeping remote teams cohesive.
Recently, a group of my LeanKit coworkers and I were talking Kanban. The age-old debate surrounding the definitions of lead time and cycle time came up, and we all rolled our eyes a bit. The Lean community has rehashed this topic a million times already, but it seems we still can’t seem to reach a consensus. The topic can be confusing to those new to Kanban, and unfailingly frustrates experienced practitioners. In this post, I’ll explain why these definitions are commonly debated. I’ll also explain how a simple definition can help you make the most of these Lean metrics.