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This chapter is from the book

Jack Sprat Could Eat No Fat

Lean thinking—lean development, lean IT principles, and so on—is a good thing. Its origins can usually be traced, one way or another, to Toyota’s Production System, and that in turn came from earlier work. The intention here is not to chant, “think lean” and “eliminate waste,” but to make something useful from the underpinning ideas.

Naturally, we would all like to be lean and eliminate as much waste as possible. However, that’s about the same as saying “eat a healthy diet.” We all know that’s admirable, but what is a “healthy diet,” and how do we ensure that we are eating one? Our intention here is to see what you can do to enhance your lean thinking while going about your daily discovery and delivery tasks.

We shall use the Japanese words that are normally employed when talking about waste and its elimination.

Muda is waste. And in a moment, we’ll look at the types of waste. But knowing these types is not necessarily useful unless we know what causes them and what we can do to stop causing them.

Let’s start with Muda and its contributors. You will find variations on these names if you look through the literature, but nothing so fundamental as to divert our cause here. We’ll use the list that reveals the cute initial letter acronym DOWNTIME.

  • Defects—The time taken to remove defects is waste. This indicates that we should try to produce things that do not contain defects.

  • Overproduction—Producing things that are not needed by the customer or the product and add no value. For our purposes, this means that there must be a relentless focus on rationale, justification, and prioritization. If the justification for anything is weak or its priority is low, it usually indicates that it’s not needed.

  • Waiting—This is the delay while waiting for some upstream process to finish or to deliver a needed artifact. This could be because discovery is taking too long, delivery has started too soon, or your planning lacks the correct understanding of what must be done.

  • Nonused talent—It is obviously wasteful to have capable people sitting idly by or not being used where their talents indicate they should be. This is either a team problem in which the self-organizing team fails to recognize its own talents, or management is treating people as interchangeable components.

  • Transport—At Toyota, this means moving car components unnecessarily from one place to another. In your case, it is hand-offs, or having to move discovery and delivery artifacts between groups. Colocated teams usually eliminate this kind of waste by collaborating on the artifacts. For example, the story map contains artifacts from a number of sources and reduces the need to move them.

  • Inventory—This one has more to do with factory production, but having discovery or delivery artifacts completed long before they are needed counts as inventory. This kind of waste is usually overcome with better planning and prioritization.

  • Motion—This is unnecessary movement of team members and stakeholders. This should also be taken to mean the wasted motion that comes from too much fragmentation of people’s tasks or having people participating in too many concurrent projects.

  • Excess processing—This kind of waste comes from doing things the hard way, the long way, or doing too many things upfront that are not needed. We do not need to elaborate on overelaborate development processes. You have almost finished reading a book on how to make your own process as lean, nimble, and effective as possible.

It ought to be that we can easily spot most of the things on the list and eliminate them. But it’s not quite that simple. There are two other factors that contribute to a lack of leanness.

  • Mura is unevenness and how it disrupts production.

  • Muri is overburden or unreasonable demands made on production.

Consider the cause-and-effect diagram shown in Figure 7.9. Here we see the three components of waste—Muda, Mura and Muri—and the effect they have on each other.

Figure 7.9

Figure 7.9 The three parts of waste should be seen together if you are to use the lean ideas to improve your own processes.

Getting rid of too much Muda (waste) does not necessarily work; instead, it probably causes Muri (overburden), which reciprocates by causing Muda (waste). Mura (unevenness) causes Muda, and Muda can in turn cause Mura.

Mura (unevenness) usually comes about because of inadequate planning and organization. The result is nonused talent, overproduction, and waiting. On the other hand, unnecessary transport (moving things around) is waste, and in turn it causes unevenness.

Muri (overburden) happens when unreasonable workloads are imposed, or where the team makes poor choices regarding its desired rate of production or sprint duration. Excessive processing, excessive inventory, and excessive motion are symptoms of overburden, and they naturally cause waste. Defects are waste because they overburden the team with the need for extra work to correct them.

Eliminating waste is an ongoing, self-improvement process. The way to eliminate waste is to improve your process; in turn, your improved process eliminates waste. This is simply a natural part of constant self-improvement and is part of being an agile, flexible, nimble analyst.

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