Lean Bag Packing at Agile2011

Once again, I helped out with the volunteer bag packing at the Agile2011 conference, and as usual we had great fun and broke records. This year we completed 1600 bags in just under 4 hours packing time, with an hour preparation/breakfast and an hour for lunch.  Christopher Avery took some video footage and interviews, which I hope to be able to link to here soon.

For the retrospective, run by Eric Willeke, we asked participants for things that they had learned which were relevant to software development. Here’s the list:

  • Focus on quality
  • Communication is essential
  • Let go
  • People and process
  • Experience is useful
  • Being prepared
  • Its important to know why
  • Improve through collaboration
  • Practice makes perfect
  • People are responsible
  • Ask & listen – don’t assume
  • Redistribute work
  • Power of whole team
  • Lots of communication
  • Simple visual metrics
  • Integration is hard
  • Don’t be attached to your process
  • Knowing good enough
  • Allowing for variance
  • Be engaged
  • Do it – inspect and adapt
  • Variety is motivating
  • Understanding impact of change
  • Change is disruptive
  • Shut up!
  • Dress appropriately
  • Common purpose
  • Relentless improvement
  • Communication without words
  • Reacting to reality
  • Be lean – JIT happens
  • Building relationships
  • Rhythm is fun
  • Visualising progress
  • Visualising WIP
  • Adaptability in context
  • People – not resources
  • Cross functional to eliminate bottlenecks
  • Single point of failure
  • Self organising team
  • Focus on the work
  • Good communication
  • People self-organising

Update: Eric has written his own post of the experience

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Presenting at Agile2011

I’ll be at Agile2011 again this year presenting a couple of sessions. Here are the details if you’d like to come along and take part.

Flow Games

Designing a Kanban System for the Enterprise

Note that while the program page for “Flow Games” suggests that we will play a selection of games, the final time constraint of 1 hour means that Eric and I will probably only be able to play one game, which will be the Ball Flow Game. Fortunately, there is another similar session (Lean Fundamentals with Michael Sahota) which will run the other games we had in mind, so we encourage you to go along to that if you want more!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

The LeanSSC European Conference Series 2011

This year the LeanSSC are running a series of conferences which have been created to give local audiences more convenient access to similar and related content without the need to travel extensively. While each event will have its own unique flavour and presenters, the similarity in timing allows for some overlap, and we are encouraging people to choose the event most convenient for them. The LeanSSC is not differentiating between the events in priority or preference and does not view one as superior to another.

Here are the details of the conferences. If you are in Europe, or fancy a trip, please consider submitting or registering. I hope to see you there.

Lean & Kanban 2011 Benelux

Call for Papers

  • Closed

Speakers

  • Including Don Reinersten, David Anderson, Alan Shalloway, John Seddon, Dave Snowden, Michael Kennedy

Registration

Prices exclusive of VAT

  • 2 Day Conference Pass: 700 Eur until Aug 15 (then 800 Eur)
  • 2 Day Conference Pass + Dinner: 750 Eur until Aug 15 (then 850 Eur)
  • 2 Day Conference Pass + Dinner + Hotel (3 nights): 1150 Eur (then 1250 Eur)

Lean & Kanban 2011 Central Europe

Call for Papers

  • Currently open. Closes June 28th.

Speakers

  • Including David Anderson, Kent Beck, Jim Benson, David Joyce and John Seddon

Registration

Prices exclusive of VAT

Individuals:

  • One day, Regular 520 EUR until Aug 17 (then 580 EUR)
  • Both days, Regular 985 EUR until Aug 17 (then 1095 EUR)

Two or more colleagues from the same company:

  • One day, Regular 465 EUR until Aug 17 (then 520 EUR)
  • Both days, Regular 885 EUR until Aug 17 (then 985 EUR)

LESS2011

Call for Papers

  • Currently open. Closes July 18th.

Tracks

  • Lean & Agile Product Development, Complexity & Systems Thinking, Beyond Budgeting, Transforming Organisations

Keynotes

  • Peter Middleton, Jim Sutton, Steve Denning, Bjarte Bogsnes

Tutorials

  • Alan Shalloway, Jean Tabaka, Benjamin Mitchell

Registration

Prices exclusive of VAT

  • Early registration EUR 595 until July 31
  • Regular registration EUR 695 until October 29
  • On-site registration EUR 795
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Agile Israel and LSSC11 Conferences

Some info about a couple of conferences coming up I’m particularly looking forward to. At both, I’m going to be talking about Visualising System Archetypes, which will build upon my recent posts about Systems Thinking and Systems Archetypes to explore how visualisation patterns can show, understand and deal with different patterns of system behaviour. Here’s the abstract:

Many organisational challenges are a result of systemic issues, where cause and effect are not directly connected, but are separated by time and involve feedback loops and delays. Given that Kanban is a method for designing a software and systems development system, and systems thinking includes the idea of system archetypes which describe common patterns of behaviour, we can use system archetypes to guide our visualisations and help us identify opportunities for improvement. This session will introduce how to understand system archetypes, describe a number of common and relevant archetypes, and discuss patterns which can visualise and thus help break those archetypes.

Agile Israel

As the adoption of Agile concepts becomes more and more mainstream, it’s time to climb to the next level!

Agile Israel 2011 is your chance to hear about next level ideas and practices such as Agile Testing, Kanban, Lean Product Management, Agile Project Management, Scaling Agile into the Enterprise level, Metrics and Dashboards, and more, and to meet practitioners from the Israeli Agile community and learn from experience reports and experts.

Agile Israel 2011 is the 4th annual Agile event in Israel, starting at 2008, and as always will include the presence of prominent speakers alongside experts from Israel and case studies from Israeli companies (view photos and lectures from Agile Israel 2010).

This year Henrik Kniberg will be the keynote speaker. Among the other international lecturers and guests will be Jurgen Appelo, Hillel Glazer, and the ScrumAlliance MD Donna Farmer.

The event will take place on April 11th 2011 and Avenue congress centre near Tel Aviv.

Register today http://agileisrael2011-ral.eventbrite.com. An early bird of 20% is currently available until March 15, and I have 5 speaker discount codes giving 5%. Ask me for details.

LSSC11

This year’s Lean Software and Systems Consortium conference (Long Beach, California, May 3-6) is bigger with many more tracks and world-class speakers. In addition, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is part of the conference cooperation with the Lean Software and Systems Consortium.

This year’s theme is the synthesis of other models, going beyond lean: LSSC11 will show how vertical markets are embracing lean, how it is applied in large-scale initiatives, and how it is succeeding around the world. 

Anyone considering lean methods like Kanban will want to be at LSSC11 to build on their knowledge and connect with like-minded business people.  Companies represented include Lonely Planet, Goodyear Tires, JP Morgan Chase, Hewlett Packard, Deloitte, GoDaddy, Microsoft and many other organizations worldwide that are actively using lean software and systems thinking to succeed.

Do not miss the excitement, the learning, the networking, and the once-in-a-lifetime moments at LSSC11. Enjoy extended early bird pricing until midnight on March 13, 2011. Ask me about speaker discount codes as well for further discount. Register today at http://lssc11.leanssc.org.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Lean & Kanban: Learning Through Systems Thinking at QCon London

I’ve just been updating my calendar and downloads pages, which have been sadly neglected recently, and thought it would be worth mentioning one particular event I’m involved with coming up.

I’m was really pleased to be asked to host a Lean & Kanban track on Thursday March 10 at QCon London, and have used the opportunity to (selfishly) create a track of talks I really want to see around ideas related Systems Thinking and Learning. I am increasingly finding these ideas core to the way that I talk about Kanban Systems.

The track abstract is:

Lean and Kanban: Learning Through Systems Thinking
It is often said that the heart of Lean is about thinking for yourself in your context. Kanban provides a model for thinking about process within a context and Systems Thinking provides a focus on purpose and outcomes within a context. Together, they enable knowledge acquisition and learning about value creation. The talks in this track will explore these various topics and show how to use the ideas and approaches to create evolutionary, continuous and sustainable improvement.

As well as giving a talk on Kanban System Design, I’m really grateful to be able to have the following line-up:

  • Katherine Kirk – When the pressure is really on: A “rough and ready” application of Lean and Kanban at the BBC

How a small IPTV team at BBC iPlayer used Lean principles and elements of Kanban for their rapid and successful response to a fast paced, very demanding live release schedule for the v2 device customisation programme.

  • Benjamin Mitchell – Can the Kanban Method avoid becoming another Management Fad

The Kanban Method has been shown to provide efficiency gains in many organisations. However, this talk will argue that those improvements have generally come through doing things righter, rather than doing the right thing. Doing more of the right thing requires challenging and testing underlying assumptions about the design and management of work, which will often lead to situations of embarrassment or threat. For the Kanban Method’s approach to evolutionary increment change to become more than a fad, it needs to either provide guidance or advice about how to overcome issues that generate embarrassment or threat, or provide a more balanced view of it’s potential impact. The talk will cover approaches that could increase the chances that the Kanban Method could deal with questioning assumptions around issues that could create defensiveness.

  • Jurgen Appelo – Complexity vs. Lean: The Big Showdown

Agile software development is (in part) based on the idea that software teams are complex adaptive systems. And Lean software development is (in part) based on systems thinking. Many Agile and Lean experts have borrowed terms from complexity theory (like “self organization” and “emergence”). But what is the difference between complexity theory and systems thinking? And how does complexity thinking compare to Lean software development? Are they different, or aligned? Can we use one to better understand the other?

  • Jeff Patton – Using design thinking to stop building worthless software

Delivering software fast isn’t the same as delivering value fast. The value we’ll get from that software is generally assumed. The real risks are almost always unknown. It’s because every piece of software we design and build is unique. It’s not designed then mass-produced like a car or piece furniture. Lean thinking and tactics that focus on speeding re-production of the same thing over and over doesn’t easily apply to the design and invention of new software. It takes design thinking. In this talk, Jeff describes the simple concepts that characterize design thinking: clear problem definition, ideation, iteration, and execution plans that emphasize continuous learning. You’ll learn how integrating these concepts into a design and delivery process shortens the cycle time from opportunity identification to acquiring real benefit from the use of the software. Jeff will give specific examples of the practices used by today’s successful software design and development companies that effectively integrate design thinking into their development approach. You’ll leave with a toolbox of simple proven practices you can add to your current process to improve the rate you deliver benefit from software.

I’m really looking forward to this. If you’d like to come along, the sooner you register the cheaper it is, and if you use the promotion code SCOT100 you can save a further £100 and a donation of £100 will be made to Crisis.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

The Ball Flow Game

I was invited to the Scrum Gathering in Amsterdam this week to give a Deep Dive on Kanban. My Kanban Exploration slides can be downloaded from slideshare. Inspired by an email discussion with Jean Tabaka and Eric Willeke, to introduce the session, and to try and reinforce the concepts of Flow, Value and Capability, I tried a variation of the Ball Point Game that is commonly used in Scrum training.

Here’s a couple of links (Kane Mar) (Declan Whelan) if you’re not familiar with the game. In a nutshell it involves a group working as a team to pass balls between themselves, constrained by some rules. The idea is to pass as many balls in a 2 minute time box. The team has to self organise and inspect and adapt in order to improve its velocity (throughput of balls).

For my variation I wanted to remove the time-box to emphasise flow more, and demonstrate a different way of understanding the capability of a system. In the game, the team are designing a system to meet the purpose of flowing balls quickly between themselves.

The changes I made were to ask the team to pass 20 balls as quickly as possible. I put a unique number (1 – 20) on each ball in case it was useful and also asked the team to time how long it took for each ball to pass through the system.  I took the data that was captured and entered it into a spreadsheet to create a control chart. We ran two rounds of the game twice, with the respective charts below.

Round 1

image

In Round 1, the team didn’t capture all the data, and some problems were had towards the end, but that the average time for each ball was 13 seconds. The system could also be said to be ‘in control’ as all the data points were with the control limits  which were calculated as AVERAGE +/- (3 * STDEV). The last measured ball was completed at 3 minutes and 35 seconds.

Round 2

image

In round 2, the team improved their data capture process and overall flow. The average time per ball dropped to 12 seconds and the variability also reduced. The Upper Control Limit dropped from 01:10 to 00:18. The last measured ball was completed at 2 minutes and 22 seconds.

What this demonstrates is that even with variability (which we don’t want to eliminate completely in software product development), by understanding the capability of the system over time, we are able to reliably communicate what might and might not be possible. For example, using the round 2 data, there is a 50% chance we’ll complete a ball in 12 seconds and a 99% chance we’ll complete a ball in 18 seconds.

We could also calculate and chart the throughput of balls completed over a cadence of 30 seconds to similarly understand the capability from that perspective also. For Round 2 those throughputs would have been 3, 4, 4, 5, 4.

There are a few areas I’d change next time I try this.

  1. The measurement took a long time and was clearly the significant bottleneck. I made measurement part of the system to add some additional complexity, but in hindsight it was probably too much. Most of the improvements were in measuring the system rather than the performance of the system.
  2. I allowed more time than I probably should have for improvement discussions. With the time-boxed version its easier to start the clock for a round and that usually that kicks the team into action. Similarly, when the measurement fell apart we stopped and restarted a couple of times. I wouldn’t do that next time, although by removing measurement from the system, it might be less of a problem.
  3. It took time to enter the data into the spreadsheet. I need to find a better way! The spreadsheet can be found here. It’s very simplistic. Please let me know if you use it and improve it!
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

A Root Cause Analysis of Agile Practices

At Agile2010 I was chatting with George Dinwiddie about general process related stuff (probably with some reference to Kanban!) and I mentioned an idea I had submitted to a couple of conferences which had never got accepted. George suggested we try it as a Open Jam session, so we did!

The idea is to run a root cause analysis of various agile practices to drill down into why they work and what the benefits to be realised are. So rather than using a 5 whys approach to solve problems, it is used to understand solutions. For example, why do unit test? To minimise defects? Why do we want to minimise defects? To create less rework? Why do we want less rework? etc. The session tied in nicely with another Open Jam run by David Hussman on Dude’s Law, which also emphasised focusing on why rather than how.

Here are the outputs from the 3 practices we picked; Unit Testing, Iterations (Time Boxes) and Limiting WIP. Click to view the album with bigger pictures.

As a general exercise, I found it really useful and interesting. Definitely something to try submitting to future conferences again. The discussion and debate we had, and the surprising tangents we went on, was rewarding and enlightening. I was particularly fascinated by the comparison between Time Boxing and Limiting WIP and the way that creativity came out in both of them through different paths. I hope that by understanding why practice work in more detail, we can avoid following them dogmatically, and be in a better position to solve problems based on context. When a particular practice is not suitable we can draw on other practices which can provide the same benefits.

This is definitely something I want to explore further – hopefully with workshops at future conferences. If you try it out as well, blog your outputs and let me know!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Exploring the Kanban Multiverse at Agile2010

I ran a workshop on “Exploring the Kanban Universe” at Agile2010 with Xavier Quesada Allue. The premise was to setup an example case study and lead participants through visualising different aspects of a project – the different multiverses – over a number of iterations.  Below are pictures of the final boards from the different teams. We encouraged people to think ‘outside the box’ and try and move away from traditional rows and columns approaches.

The highlight for me was the circular design that one of the teams came up with. I thought it was a great solution to the challenge of avoiding kanban boards appearing to show a linear process. With a circular design, a work item can loop round the circle multiple times, with the distance from the centre indicating closeness to completion, and different quadrants indicating the primary focus of work such as analysis, dev, test etc. This was the nicest example of a board as a ‘map’ as opposed to a ‘relational’ representation.

One thing that was reinforced for me was that a Kanban Board should not try to visualise absolutely everything. Its should have just enough information to signal where the issues are, and where the team should look to find out more. In other words it should be able to “point to the gemba”. Thanks to Harada Kiro to reminding me of this after the session. In future runs of the workshop we’d like to try starting with a blank canvas each iteration to avoid teams feeling constrained by trying to show too much and having to build upon previous designs.

I also gave a talk on the subject at the Lean & Kanban Conference in Belgium last week after which Mary Poppendieck pointed out that I’d slipped into referring to some visual management designs as kanban boards when they strictly weren’t because they didn’t limit WIP. Visual Management is a large part of a Kanban System, but not every Visual Management board is a Kanban board.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)

LESS2010 – Don’t Miss Out

I’ve spent the last few days busy on final preparations for the LESS2010 – the International Conference on Lean Software and Systems, which is being held in partnership with the LeanSSC.

Tickets for LESS2010 are selling well, but we’d really like it to be a sell out. If you’re not already coming, please take a look, sign up and bring your friends and colleagues!

The website is http://less2010.leanssc.org/ and the full program and details are now available at http://less2010.leanssc.org/program/. There is also an executive day if you know anyone who you think would be interested in that. http://less2010.leanssc.org/program/executives/. If you book a group of 5 or more, we can also offer a discounted rate – let me know if you’re interested in that option.

We have a couple of flyers for helping with promotion:

If I were to pick 3 main reasons for attending the conference, they would be:

  • The Beyond Budgeting track and links with that community
  • The Academic content and links with that community
  • The great line-up of speakers 🙂

I hope I see you there!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Agile2010 Bag Packing with Kanban

At Agile2010, as at Agile2009, I went along to help the volunteer bag packing, and use it as an exercise in experimenting with Lean and Kanban ideas. Once again it was a huge success. We completed packing all the bags in (anecdotally) record time, and had great fun in the process.

The video above was put together by Luiz Parzianello and really gives a sense of the energy and enjoyment everyone had. You can also see the “Y” shaped line we put in place and how people moved around and self-organised to keep the materials flowing.

Below are the outputs of the team retrospective, but first, here are my highlights and overall impressions.

  • Even though bag packing is not software development, there was still creativity on the way we solved the problem.
  • Being able to design a successful process in context, whatever the nature of the work, is an important skill.
  • Even with relatively repetitive work, people are motivated when they are involved in designing the work.
  • Clear visibility of bottlenecks (by limiting work in progress) enabled people to move around to keep the flow of material.
  • Measuring throughput in bags per minute (but not setting targets) was a motivator and a predictor of when we would finish.
  • Given the right space, it would be perfectly feasible to pack bags on-demand during registration without needing to pack them up front.

Here are the retrospective notes:

What Worked – Do Again

  • Music
  • 1 person floating around all stations (extra capacity)
  • Y Config
  • Everyone really trying to help
  • Continuity of event planning – better every year – Elastic
  • WIP limits – 4 stacks backlog meant stop & wait
  • 18 people in am / 15 people in pm
  • People taking metrics – live, visible metrics – without warning
  • Paper picking – each one goes under prev
  • Largest on bottom
  • Table splits
  • Breaks
  • Everything organised & stacked with one example on table of each item
  • Handing a stack directly to a person instead of putting on table
  • Continuity & ownership between am/pm – (better)
  • People got to be creative & solve problems
  • Stacking by size
  • Arrange table so no one had to walk
  • Video taping!!!

What Did Not Work – Do Better

  • Tables too short, materials too low
  • Bad sizing on poster
  • Folders came flat, needed to fold
  • Sticker falling out of flyer
  • Bags less than ideal – keeping open – cut hands
  • Started later, slow beginning
  • Still found missing items
  • List still was not accurate, items hard to match
  • Process for matching items to list not efficient
  • Did not have all the bags
  • Table with small things moved too fast
  • Slowing down to obey WIP made it hard to speed up

What To Do Differently – Try

  • Packing on the vendor room – closer to end point
  • Planning on process over email before hand
  • Someone owns planning process early
  • Something to hold bags by handle and open like a rod
  • Big visible labels on boxes – even big colour stickies
  • Do prework on Saturday
  • Insert kanban tokens into inventory so when a signal is found in stack, then supplies can be identified.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)