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Archive for November, 2009

Kanban Kick Start

Simply wonderful description of Kanban. Thanks, Crisp!

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Categories: Kanban

Unsustainable pace

I had a chat yesterday with my best friend. As too many times before, she tells me about her husband working almost around the clock, weekends, holidays. And she always says “This is such a tough project. It will all change when this project is over.” She has been saying that for four years now. We’ve all been in episodes when we have to work very hard, spending evenings and even nights. But when this becomes the normal situation, you’re on the wrong track. You can perhaps skip that TV show you love but your spouse, your children and your friends will continue their lives without you if you’re not there. Is it worth it? And is it really effective?

A basic principle of the 7 habits program is the old story of the goose and the golden egg. In the story, a poor peasant have a goose which he loves a lot and one morning, the goose lays a golden egg. Bewildered with joy, the peasant can buy food for his starving family. But the next morning, there is yet another golden egg. And again, he’s filled with joy and can provide for his loved ones. As the days passes, the goose continue laying the golden eggs, one each morning, and the once poor man is transformed into a rich man. He no longer has to fight for survival and instead he craves the riches of the golden eggs. His greed makes him impatient and one day he cuts the goose open to get all the eggs at once. But there are no golden eggs in the goose. Instead he has killed the goose he loves and destroyed the resource which brought him continuous wealth.

In 7 habits, the goose is the production capacity and the golden egg the produce and the basic principle is that you need a sustainable pace and focus both on the eggs and the goose. If you’re fixated on the eggs, you will risk the health of the goose, and thereby kill it and loose all your future winnings. If you don’t work with the eggs, the production capacity will be useless, since it does not bring wealth.

For me, this story struck a core. Having worked with agile values for many years now, I of course know and have discussed the importance of the sustainable pace. And yet, I’ve worked too many times in environments where no value has been given to the production capacity of the resources. I’ve had managers who didn’t care if someone worked themselves to death. Literary. But what have they won in the long run? I’ve also worked in organizations where no one has cared about the produce, where managers haven’t bothered about people producing something of value. Who’ve turned a blind eye to employees wasting time and resources. Both are killers, in their own ways, and if you find yourself in an organization which does not addresses these issues, you are probably better off somewhere else. In some cases, you can perhaps be a part of the transition of the organization, but if your managers are not on the wagon or refuse to change, there is probably no use. You cannot make the change yourself.

Time is too precious to waste and time is wasted on an organization who does not realize that building a business is a long race and not a sprint.

Categories: Leadership

A sense of urgency

I once worked for an organization, marketing their product as business critical. We spent a lot of energy and effort getting the customers to maximize their use of the system, something which made them dependent on the system too. When it worked, all was of course well and their productivity was amazing.

But the system was not fool proof and sometimes it just stopped working. It didn’t happen all the time but not as seldom that you would not get a bit used to it.

The first time, it was a real disaster. The customers and we consultants panicked. If the system didn’t work, our customers wouldn’t get paid, their customers would not be serviced and since we’d made them so dependent on the system, they didn’t have a really good process to handle this type of situations.

But when it happened again and again and yet again, the same situation wasn’t handled as an urgent issue. Oh, the servers are down. Too bad. We’ll work on it and hopefully the problem is solved soon. Indexed has as so often caught this in a simple image:

Since we let the failures happen too many times, we lost a sense of urgency. We knew the system would fail so we weren’t that serious about it. A real horror story was when a customer was left with a non working system for many days, not being able to bill his customers.

So, what happened to the customers? Well, first of all the trust was broken. We had stated that we would treat his system as business critical, but that was not how it worked. They lost faith in the product and I guess a couple of customers built a separate system for the times when the system failed. The customer staff of course lost all their trust. Many are stressed at work and need their critical systems to work. I guess they did not recommend this system to their friends and families.

Does this mean that systems cannot fail? Well, of course they can and they will but if you are building business critical systems, the likelihood of failure should be low and not functioning systems should be seen and handled as disasters. Of course that does not apply to all functions in a system. There are few really mission critical functions of a system.

When developing systems we must clarify SLA’s and identify these mission critical tasks in the systems. And we need to build a sense of urgency into our crew when disaster strike.

Categories: Business, Leadership