Monday, October 30, 2017

Frontiers - Lean & IT

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

By any objective measure, Lean has ‘done well’. Most major organizations have active Lean/Continual Improvement activities. Lean thinking has developed roots far from its manufacturing beginnings and into far-flung fields like healthcare, construction and the process industries.

Yes, there have been dead-ends, detours and growing pains.

Why do so many organizations fail to fully harvest Lean’s potential? How do we sustain Lean as a system, and not merely a set of tools?

How do we engage senior leaders more deeply?

Nonetheless, we’ve made good progress these past few decades.

So what’s next?

Information technology. How to translate the powerful Lean principles methods & principles in this vital, fascinating, yet often arcane field?

There has, of course, been some helpful cross-fertilization. Agile, for example, and its constituent methods (Scrum, Kanban..., are creative expressions of visual management, Pull and PDCA. But my sense is we've barely scratched the surface. (Are respect for people, quality in the process, and Strategy Deployment well understood?)

The obstacles are substantial. Information Technology language, mental models, and gembas are radically different than those in, say, manufacturing, logistics or the process industries.

IT value streams are among the most invisible my team & I have encountered. IT departments tend to be fragmented and often comprise multiple deep silos. (DEVOPS is a valuable attempt to integrate the software development and delivery process, and emphasizes communication and collaboration between product management, software development, and operations.)

On the plus side, IT practitioners are among the most capable and creative people we've ever worked with. As ever, shared experiential learning (Yokoten) begins with a shared understanding. I encourage Lean practitioners around the world to learn the language & business of IT, and to think deeply about how to support our colleagues there. (My daughter and I recently enrolled in a coding course, which took me back to my student days & reminded me I’m a bad coder…)

And I encourage our colleagues in IT shops around the world to learn & adapt the powerful thinking methodologies of Lean.

Should lead to interesting conversations.

Best regards,


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