We work with many companies at Borland who are looking to transition to agile but haven’t quite pulled the trigger. One of the first questions that comes up in our initial conversations is “how do you get started?
When it comes to deciding on where or why to make any major change in an organization, it helps to look at examples of effective change – even if (and especially if) they are in other domains. Learning from and citing these examples can help shift the perspective of both individuals or teams on where they can drive change in their organizations
I find the success stories at the Lean Enterprise Institute very useful for helping me shift my perspective.
Take the story of the HighGrove Partners for example. HighGrove Partners is one of the largest privately owned diversified landscape design, installation, and maintenance companies in Atlanta
One of the changes HighGrove Partners introduced was creating maps of their trucks, which detailed where the equipment was to be stored in the trucks, and attaching these maps on to the trucks. This simple change was meant to improve the process that the maintenance crews carried out each day. Each maintenance job requires a crew to arrive with the truck on a jobsite, unload equipment, carry out the job, reload the equipment and continue to the next jobsite.
The storage and retrieval of equipment in these trucks does not add value to what HighGrove does. Customers of the company are not paying for delivery and retrieval of this equipment, but rather the result of using that equipment effectively on their grounds. The transit, load and unload activities are necessary, but a form of waste because they are adding no value. The article doesn’t describe what the value-stream map looks like for this part of HighGrove, but by minimizing this waste through a simple enhancement, the company now sees these benefits:
- Minimizes the time to search for particular equipment because workers know where the equipment is, so they can start the job sooner after arriving on the jobsite.
- Minimizes the time to pack up because workers know where the equipment goes, so they can depart the jobsite quicker when they’re done.
- Reduces the risk of injury or damage because workers can consistently store equipment securely during transit, load and unload.
- Reduces the amount of time for a new worker to learn these things because truck configurations are standardized, so they can fully contribute their efforts more quickly.
Looking at this example, what parallels do you see in your organization?
From my point of view, it reminds me of the ongoing need to introduce and improve continuous integration. Teams need consistent and automated procedures for checking in and checking out of artifacts, and also for launching builds, test sets, analysis, documentation generation, and so on.
At a different level, the example also reminds me to think about repetitive tasks as I encounter them, and to contemplate how I would standardize them. What value add or waste reduction would that standardization bring?
Lastly, it reminds me to examine whether I understand the value stream of the organizations I’m involved in.
Cheers, for now!