The 4 Pillars of Lean for Agile Mindset
Source: Silicon Valley Software Group
In nature, nothing is created, everything is transformed. This also applies to Lean culture adaptation for Agile project management.
What is Agile?
Agile methods are an alternative to traditional project management, and were born in the arms of software development, but today they can be applied to any type of project (including those that do not refer to software development).
The adoption of agile methodologies is on the rise for the development of products and software and other areas of the organization, such as marketing, sales and human resources. Agile companies can dramatically increase productivity and shorten delivery cycles while improving quality.
The consolidation of the agile mentality demands cultural changes, paradigm breaks and possible restructurings in the organization and its processes. In this way, it is important to ensure the effective continuity and adherence of the change process at all different levels within the company.
Following on the path of transformation starts from the courage to open up and have the full understanding that we are dealing with a cultural change. In this sense, it is important and recommended to rescue some premises of the Lean journey.
John Shook, who learned this new way of thinking – or methodology – the Toyota when the automaker opened its first plant in the US, says that the most effective way to change a culture is to first change the behavior of people.
The model of cultural transformation proposed by Shook does not attempt to change the way people think, but how they act. To this end, it makes use of well-structured processes capable of facilitating day-to-day tasks and enabling everyone to learn and develop. This is where the management level finds its safe haven because the Lean, the leader is the one who deeply understands the work and thus can not only make commitments for the team, but also develop it and challenge it toward growth continuous.
Thus, I highlighted four aspects of the Lean mentality that are important for shaping behaviors from more efficient, effective and safe processes:
Hansei (“self-reflection”) is a central idea in Japanese culture and the Lean mentality. Its practical meaning is to admit one’s mistake and to ensure improvement. It is about conducting meetings to evaluate the opportunities for improvement and reflection on the choices made and how they can be improved. Hansei also means success with humility, that is, no one should become fully convinced of his superiority in regard to the need for learning and continuous improvement.
In the Agile mindset, Hansei can be translated into retrospective systematics, shared responsibility, transparency and assertiveness in communication and especially in the constant learning of failures.
Jishuken (“self-learning”) are hands-on collaborative workshops where employees perfect their skills on the basis of repetition and error. It is one of the forms of development of Shuhari (read article here). Jishuken can take anywhere from a week to several months.
In the Agile midset, Jishuken can be translated into the practices of collaborative construction with multifunctional teams in a visual and practical way. It also appears in the constant direction for building the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for further cycles of improvement and refinement based on learning.
Heijunka (“production leveling”) is the planning, management and control of the type and quantity of production over a fixed period of time. This allows production (or delivery of products) to meet customer demands, avoiding very large batch processing, resulting in smaller inventories or deliveries. Heijunka guarantees reduced capital costs, labor costs and production run time through the whole flow of value.
In Agile mindset, the Heijunka can be translated in the preparation of the deliveries based on time and not in scope, ie deliveries must occur more frequently when in periods of two to four weeks (Scrum Sprint). It should be fragmenting the product or process to be built in pieces (themes, epics or stories) lower than should be prioritized as the most customer-perceived value increment in such a way to ensure the best delivery in the shortest time possible.
Kaizen (“change for the better”) refers to the philosophy or practices that focus on the continuous improvement of processes. Described by the phrase “Today better than yesterday, tomorrow better than today,” the Kaizen establishes that it is always possible to do better and that no day should pass without some improvement has been implemented, either in the company or the individual structure.
In the Agile midset, Kaizen can be translated by the constant practices of evaluation, critical analysis and improvement of the product and the development process. It is very visible in the focus on collecting customer insight and experience, increasing the number of interactions, delivering deliverables focused on the largest value increase and not on a closed scope.
In short, Lean Culture permeates the Agile way of thinking, focusing on reflection, learning, deliveries, and constant concern for value creation. If Agile’s pillars focus on transparency, inspection, and adaptation, we can now understand more deeply the origin of this lean-based concepts.