Monday, 15 December 2014

(Kai)Zen and the art of doing (almost) nothing

Have you ever attended a causal analysis meeting and found that just about anyone were offering random solutions? I was attending one such meeting in which some one just walked in, looked at the problem statement on the board for a moment and started proposing solutions non-stop.
It turns out that we are hardwired to respond than to listen. You can figure it out by playing the game "123 go" mentioned in https://leanpub.com/CollaborationGamesToolbox. (A very good collection of games related to agile mindset :)
A random response is still harmless. The trouble starts when each response is stated as a solution. No wonder more than half of today's problems are because of yesterday's solutions.
Lean Software methods attempt to break this vicious cycle with Kaizen. "Good change" can be a rough translation of this Japanese word. Kaizen is best understood as a practice which is based on two principles:
1. The principle of context
2. The principle of minimalism
Let us understand these a little more.
Lean thinking has employed many practices based on the principle of context. Value Stream Map (VSM), a visual representation of a flow-to-be-optimized helps to set the context. So does a Kanban board by visualizing the dynamics of a project or a Gemba check; where you *take a walk* to the source of the problem. If context is not understood fully, your best response in a situation would be to shut up.
Archimedes is claimed to have said "Give me a lever long enough and I shall move the world". The unsaid wisdom of this is in the pivot (fulcrum for the physicists among you). The principle of minimalism focuses on the pivot, the point of maximum advantage. In an organic system like a software project, it is best discovered by using shorter feedback loops. Implement something small (your top-1 response to the problem context) and visualize how the project responds to it over a sprint.
Take a moment to think again about the agile principle on Simplicity; the art of maximizing the work NOT done.
PS: Let us observe a minute of silence and add one less problem for tomorrow. Amen.