With apologies to Cezanne who I doubt intended his painting of factories near Mont-de-Cengle to illustrate a summary of a keynote to Lean and Kanban Central Europe’s 2012 conference but it works for me. If you want the slides and pod cast then they are now on line. I’ve always deprecated the attempt to shift methods and tools designed for manufacturing into the service sector. One is a closed system, where outcomes are predictable and can be engineered/designed. The other is an open system, more akin to an ecology (the countryside in the picture). Things that work in one space fail to work in another.
A related concern is cultural translation without contextual adaption. Lean evolved in a japanese culture which is more communitarian, networked based as opposed to the more atomistic component and category based system which prevails in Northern Europe and the US. This can often mean that words are used without really understanding their context. You see this in the comical (well it would be if it was not serious) linking of Sick Stigma to Lean. Even the most basic reading of the literature on LEAN would see that it seeks to eliminate the mindless measurement obsessed waste that is the product of Six Sigma.
This is worse in the software sector as its far too easy to see software production as a manufacturing process. With that view we get the linear relationship between user requirements development and delivery that is all to characteristic of even AGILE practice. Drawing a linear process as a circle does not make it any less linear ….
In fact what we need is a co-evolutionary approach to software development. One that allows both articulated and unarticulated needs to interaction with software capability to allow a system to emerge, that is beneficially coherence but which can not be fully known or anticipated in advance. That means worked with smaller units (finely grained objects), distributing cognition and interpretation into the network and directly connecting decision makers with the micro-narratives of users day to day experience (disintermediation). The embolded phrases are the three characteristics of a complex adaptive system. I’m not sure if I fully got that across but I tried! I am also running the first two day Agile/Cognitive Edge course here in Vienna Wednesday/Thursday. Tomorrow however takes me on business to Bratislava so I am catching the ferry down the Danube. I am praying for no fog as I want to take pictures!