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June 14, 2021

Lean Into the New Normal: Lean-Agile Management for What’s Next (Part 2)

by: Christopher Pola

This post is part two of a two-part series. Lean-Agile Management principles can help you lean into the new normal and prepare for what’s next. Read on to learn about five examples of the causes of waste and how to eliminate these causes. Read Part 1 of the series first.

 

5 Examples of Waste and How to Eliminate Them

In my first blog post, I discussed why eliminating waste is a crucial goal for organizations to operate effectively in the “new normal” business environment and provides capacity for managing change. In this post, I will provide you with some real-life examples of waste and how to eliminate each.

 

1. Keeping apprised of work progress by manual data entry into spreadsheets

You need a data strategy for all lean-agile workstreams that will provide a single system of record for all the linked and cascading backlogs or classification of work and provide lean-agile metrics natively. I recommend Rally Software for the lean-agile enterprise.

 

Manage backlogs and track WIP with Rally Software. Figure 2: Manage backlogs and track WIP with Rally Software.

  

2. Pesky two-hour or half-day resource time assignments for individual resources

First, it’s a futile practice to have a deterministic schedule for inherently variable work. Organize people into persistent teams to build and retain knowledge in your organization and to get more predictable in delivery (of inherently variable assets). And, put in place responsibility-based planning and control.

A team-based organizational structure is the fundamental transformation that needs to happen; teams are the atomic unit of agile. This structure eliminates many issues and the need for futile individual resource allocation transactions.

Go further and implement Lean Budgeting or alternative agile capitalization methods, which help reduce non-value-add transactions and improve outcomes for all stakeholders. Listen to us talk about a myriad of concepts related to organizational design and improve software delivery performance in the Art and Science of the Rally Organizational Hierarchy.

 

3. Reducing work to a generic list of tasks and to-do lists

Generic to-do lists can enable the wrong behaviors at the portfolio level, and it’s heavy on process. Remember the agile manifesto value about individuals and interactions vs. process and tools. Focus on product and technology leadership, the right conversations, and team-based commitments. Consider adopting the Kanban Method instead of managing tasks.

 

4. Full-time employees completing timesheets and using that proxy data as the basis of operational and financial controls

Consider lean-agile methods for things like agile capitalization and innovative accounting practices.

 

5. Transaction-based procurement cycles

Do you have repetitive manual procurement cycles every time you need to engage with a supplier or customer? These procurement cycles halt productivity and cause unnecessary bureaucracy.

You need a lean partnership, alignment on mutual objectives, and an agreement that doesn’t create engagement impediments between you and your suppliers and customers in the macro value stream. It’s about win-win symbiotic relationships and eliminating waste in the interactions between your suppliers and customers. The Broadcom ESD has delivered the PLA for precisely this purpose.

I hope these considerations inspire you. Simply start observing your transactions on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Pay attention to the level of effort required to make these transactions, how they impact flow, and consider, “Does this add value, and is it necessary?”

 

A Litmus Test for Identifying Transactions that are Waste

A litmus test that can help you identify which transactions are waste is the following: does that activity or transaction make you frown? Yes, you read that right, frown.

I bet that if you catch yourself frowning at work, then it’s an indicator the activity might be wasteful. A study about peak performance and flow states observed that frowning muscles become paralyzed. Steve Kolter writes about it in his work on peak performance.

Flow states are a good indicator of productivity and performance. So, a frown is probably a good indicator that the transaction you are undertaking is mere “work-about-the-work” and probably fits into the lean definition of waste.

Last, understand that eliminating transactions must not come at the expense of giving up control or fiduciary responsibility. Never do anything to jeopardize these corporate responsibilities.

Eliminating unnecessary transactions will eliminate waste, but first, you need two things lined up: 1) lean-agile thinking, culture, and practices and 2) a data strategy with an enterprise agile-lean management solution that brings more control into your operations and less dependency on wasteful and pesky proxy transactions.

Less waste, better data, and less cognitive overload will equal better interactions, conversations, and decisions. That, in turn, leads to better engagement and culture. My wish is that you’re now inspired to champion your organization to “lean in” to not just the new normal but, anything that comes next.

  

Take Action

Take immediate action now to review your processes and identify any transactional activity that either collects proxy data, duplicates data, or adds unnecessary overhead. Then classify each as either necessary non-value-add or unnecessary non-value-add transactions.

Use the scientific method or another framework to purposefully eliminate unnecessary non-value-add transactions and gain a myriad of benefits. Once you eliminate unnecessary non-value-add transactions, you can begin using real-time data for decision support to eliminate cognitive biases to become more objective, fair, and collaborative. You will also remove the tedium of entering proxy data in separate systems like spreadsheets, which will allow people to stay in a flow state and avoid cognitive overload.

Visit Broadcom Enterprise Software Academy to learn more about how ValueOps and Rally Software can help you start your journey with lean agile principles today.