A Valuable 2-Day Masterclass for Leaders and their Direct Reports –
Getting results applying Agile, Lean & DevOps is common but usually relies on a handful of people who carry most of the weight because they are excited by the new tools and methods. These early adopters act as champions of change and are essential at the start of an IT transformation. For change to persist, innovation to be sustained and continuously improved, everyone needs to be engaged!
This is where effective leadership is crucial. Using hands-on exercises and role play, this workshop will position you to understand and experience the key behaviors needed to effectively lead Agile, Lean IT & DevOps teams through an enterprise transformation.
Currently, most DevOps, Lean IT, and Agile transformations are not led by CIOs. They are often led by the director of operations, chief architect, or director of development. It is good these people have been given the authority and/or responsibility to introduce a significant change in the way work gets done. But there is a potential downside: without the vision, alignment, and commitment a CIO brings to the discussion, these efforts can collapse for many reasons including lack of commitment across the entire IT service delivery value stream, conflicting priorities, entrenched silos within IT, lack of internal coaching and support, and overburden of bottleneck resources (just to name a few).
The success of the transformation begins and all too often ends, based on the degree the CIO and their direct reports actively lead and authentically connects. To lead people effectively, leaders need to understand the “Why,” the “What,” and the “How.” This is a mindset, skill set, and toolset that needs to be learned, practiced, and adjusted based on the culture of the specific organization and the challenges they encounter. Leaders throughout the organization must be able to connect with people at a very real and meaningful level that fosters trust, transparency, respect, and new ways of working across silos. This is tricky stuff for almost everyone and the CIO is the pivotal influencer of how seriously and deeply people will go to make their transformation succeed.
I wrote this post for the Lean Enterprise Insitute.
I was recently talking with the CEO of a large insurance company who said, “our people seem to know Lean concepts and tools, but they are not being Lean as they go about their daily work!” If this sounds familiar then read on.
After years of training, workshops, and books on Lean and continuous process improvement, most organizations applying Lean have not realized the performance breakthrough and cultural shift they had hoped for. I have visited numerous organizations who have invested years undertaking Lean activities (value stream mapping, A3 problem solving, visual management, leader standard work, Kaizen, etc.) but have little to show for their efforts in terms of sustained value stream performance, quality, productivity, effectiveness, safety, and efficiency gains.
This is an issue we as a community need to take an honest look at. Perhaps there are some missing elements that we need to be considering. Is it possible that we’ve gone on “autopilot” and are just going through the motions without engaging our minds? Have we become robotic in our Lean thinking and doing? Have we become so comfortable with the knowledge of Lean that we have lost touch with the being of Lean?
Shifting out of autopilot
A state of being known as mindfulness presents a path forward. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Mindfulness has gained lots of attention in the business press over the past decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease reported: “Approximately 1 in 7 workers report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity, and these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”
Four Levels of Awareness
You are probably familiar with the classic four stages of awareness:
- Unconscious Incompetence – blissful ignorance (not knowing that you don’t know something)
- Conscious Incompetence – painful awareness (realizing that you don’t know something)
- Conscious Competence – intentional awareness (knowing what you know and don’t know)
- Unconscious Competence – unaware but knowledge and experience has taken over
Initially described as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”, the theory was developed by Noel Burch in the 1970s.
Isn’t it interesting that unconsciousness competence emphasized the autopilot nature of our thinking? Perhaps this works for a few people, but the rest of us would be better served relying on mindfulness and conscious competence to develop deeper levels of focus, analysis, experimentation, reflection, and learning. To that end, please consider the following model:
Four levels of awareness: Knowing, Understanding, Doing, and Being
(see image above)
A good place to start
Knowing is where we typically begin by training people in Lean Basics: principles, systems, and tools that make up the Lean body of knowledge. While knowing key concepts and models is certainly needed, by itself knowing does not necessarily lead to major changes in behavior. I may know eating pizza is not good for my health but that knowing does not stop me from ordering a large pizza most Friday nights!
Understanding occurs when we mentally process the new information we have learned, compare it to what we know and don’t know, and create context and perspective. We reconcile the new knowledge to give it meaning in relation to everything else we believe we understand.
But even solid understanding does not drive sustained changes in behavior. John Shook addressed this issue in his landmark Lessons from NUMMI article in 2010. In that piece, he wrote, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” This key insight is attributed to Millard Fuller, Founder of Habitat for Humanity.
Activity with mixed results
Doing is where many organizations find themselves – they are diligently putting up team boards, updating metrics, holding team stand up meetings, updating A3’s, developing countermeasures, going to the gemba, and so on. There is a concerted effort to accomplish the tasks of continuous improvement. Kaizen events, team huddles, and the Lean Management System have been determined a success, but at the end of the day, not much has changed!
Let’s pause here: how accurate is it to suggest that “not much has changed?” If we define change in terms of sustained gains in value stream performance, quality, productivity, effectiveness, safety, and efficiency gains. Go take a walk around your company and honestly assess the level of sustained gains when viewed through this lens of awareness.
Just as understanding is needed for clarity around the “why” and “what” of Lean, doing is the action needed to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Someone once said, “A tool is only as useful as the user.” If a team using Lean is operating at knowing, understanding, or doing level, problems not deeply understood, changes are temporary, and solutions seldom sustained. We can often find ourselves so absorbed with the challenges of achieving our daily work goals that we lose focus and reliance on process improvement – we are doing Lean, but we are not being Lean.
To move to action, we need to move from understanding to doing. However, to sustain the change, people must progress to the next level of awareness – being.
Being is a whole new ballgame
Being is the calm, focused state of mind where we are fully present and aware of what is here, right now. When we are in this state, the mind is nonjudgmental and accepting of the current situation. Acceptance does not mean approval; it means that we grasp the situation for what it truly is, in order to take steps to improve the situation and close the gap. With acceptance, we do so with a clarity of mind and calmness of thought that leads to a state of allowing things to be as they are while moving towards an improved target state.
Acceptance, acknowledgment, and allowing things to be as they are versus resisting, judging them, or putting up excuses for them, gives us a powerful edge for direct observation which often reveals underlying contributing factors to the current conditions.
Being delivers a key element that is missing from doing: a space for the mind to be more relaxed, more creative, and less stressed. As we become more present and focused on the moment directly here and now, the mind becomes calm, curious, and accepting. Mindfulness positions us to approach problems dispassionately, which directly supports Lean thinking (structured experimentation, reflection-based learning, connecting with people on an authentic level).
In the next post, we’ll explore some specific mindfulness practices you can apply to boost your effectiveness at being Lean.
About the author: Mike Orzen is a member of the LEI facility and has been practicing both Lean and mindfulness for over twenty years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently received an email from a colleague of mine who, after 15 years in IT, was wondering if Lean (and particularly Lean IT) is just an over-used term losing its value. Today we hear and read about Agile, DevOps, ITSM, IT4IT, Lean Startup and other frameworks all purporting to transform and revolutionize the effectiveness of IT operations. How do we make sense of it all?
In my opinion, these frameworks and the methodologies they apply to the “IT challenge” are not at all at odds with one another. On the contrary, they each bring unique insights and applications to the array of complexity within IT and support our progress towards more effective and efficient flow of information to those who need it.
The principles of Lean IT, serve as the chassis to the engines of Agile, DevOps, and other IT frameworks. In 2011, I attempted to capture those principles in Lean IT – Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation. The principles included a foundation of purpose, respect for people, and relentless improvement. The next level addressed self-driven behavior where people do the right thing based on intrinsic motivation. From there we explored core ideas of Lean including voice of the customer, quality at the source, and systems thinking. Building on that, we moved into production concepts such as flow, pull and just in time. The outcome is a culture of trust, transparency, accountability and performance impacting quality, delivery time, cost, and organizational morale.
The details of the model can be downloaded here (scroll to the bottom of the page). Reflecting on the essence of what all the models are attempting to achieve, it boils down to this:
Flow Value to the Customer
Create a Great User Experience
Keep Getting Better
There are many frameworks and tools to help us accomplish this, but the core principles do not change – they are universal, timeless, and self-evident once we apply them. With the advent of other frameworks, is Lean IT irrelevant? Are the core principles of an auto chassis irrelevant to a Tesla? I think not! Regardless of which frameworks your organization deploys, keeping these core principles in mind will help you maintain focus and stay the course.
Mike Orzen is one of the early practitioners of Lean IT and contributed to the development of the “Three Ways of DevOps” found in The Phoenix Project. He has been practicing the application of Lean IT, Agile and DevOps for over 20 years. Mike is on the content board of LITA and a certified instructor.
Lean IT, DevOps & Agile – Learnings from Nationwide
Six years ago, Nationwide (an insurance and financial services company with US$26 billion in annual revenues) embarked on building industry leading software engineering capabilities. Their lean journey has enabled and engaged their 9,000+ person IT organization to deliver great solutions to customers and partners with ever-increasing levels of quality.
In this session, we’ll explore the lean system that guides all aspects of software engineering, service management and infrastructure including a lean management system from the frontline to the C-suite, a focus on problem solving, visual management, accountability, and what is possible when technology and lean come together.
The lean management system built at Nationwide is described in the book The Lean IT Field Guide, co-authored with the person primarily responsible for the transformation. Hear their stories and discover how you can benefit from their success!
Program Description: The most difficult step to take in a Lean IT transformation (be it agile, DevOps, service management, etc.) is the very first one. Organizations fall into the trap of learning lean concepts and talking about the possibilities, but the initial excitement fades and the transformation never gets off the ground. Lack of alignment to organizational purpose, inability to figure out where to start, and fear of making mistakes all conspire to keep companies from ever getting started in the first place.
This one day workshop, based on the book, The Lean IT Field Guide by Mike Orzen and Tom Paider, will provide participants with an understanding of the foundational elements needed for a successful lean transformation and practical experience identifying and executing the key activities of pre-launch and day zero activities.
The workshop will focus on preparing you to implement a solid foundation of a sustainable lean transformation, not just focus on terms, definitions, and theory without application!
Benefits: In this interactive workshop you will:
· Gain understanding of the core elements of the Lean IT Roadmap and how to apply it to your DevOps/agile/lean transformation
· Identify your organization’s current strengths, challenges, and readiness to begin a Lean IT transformation
· Learn to apply key concepts, methods, and tools critical to successful transformation
· Acquire the skills to plan and launch a lean transformation using a case study simulation
· Reflect on how you will apply these concepts and tools to get started on the right path or to check/adjust in your organization
Who should take this class? Agile, DevOps and Lean IT practitioners of all levels + those responsible for leading real change in IT
This is Part 4 of Sequences, Behaviors and Integrating Adaptive Lean IT Systems – an updated article originally published in the Lean Management Journal in October 2015.
In the previous blog entry, team huddles and a visual management system were mentioned. These are both examples of work systems designed to encourage the specific behaviors we want to cultivate. There are many work systems that comprise a lean management system including problem solving, daily huddles, leader standard work, training, recognition, visual management, strategy deployment, measurement, and monthly performance reviews, just to name a few.
It is these work systems that impact people’s behavior most significantly by emphasizing and reinforcing those actions we want to see everyday from everyone. Where many organizations get into trouble is in the sequence and timing of how and when to introduce these systems.
SEQUENCE IS CRITICAL
Over the past twenty-four years, I have tried many approaches and witnessed what works and what doesn’t. Here’s the bottom line: each organization has its own culture, history, and work environment, so one size does not fit all. There is no standard deployment sequence or collection of work systems that apply universally. That said; there are some fundamental concepts applicable to all organizations.
1) Start by establishing a clear purpose throughout the organization. This is a prerequisite for success.
2) Acknowledge that the bedrock of lean is learning and that problem solving capability is the skill to cultivate if you are serious about transformation.
3) Strive to balance the two pillars of lean: continuous improvement and respect for people. Don’t make the common mistake of falling in love with tools of continuous improvement and ignoring respect for people.
4) Create a culture of accountability by building work systems that position your people to succeed, to learn, and to grow. This is true respect for people and promotes high levels of teamwork, engagement, accountability, and ultimately performance.
5) Work systems must be designed, built, maintained, and improved by the people doing the actual work. Outside support is fine, but the frontline people must do the work.
ADAPTIVE LEAN IT SYSTEMS
Whether you are considering bringing lean IT to your organization, currently applying it to IT operations, or determined to build a lasting transformation, awareness of the lean IT diamond and the importance of behavior, work systems, and sequence will significantly increase your odds of success.
At the end of the day, Lean IT is all about effectively responding to change by continuously improving adaptive systems. In order to be effective, IT must change its behavior and functional capabilities in response to its environment and the needs of the Business. When IT reshapes systems and technology, the adaptive change is directly relevant to achieving the goals and objectives of the organization.
For IT organizations to evolve and become more responsive to the changing needs of the Business while simultaneously maintaining the stability and security they are held responsible for, IT professionals need to understand and embrace the behaviors, as well as the thinking, of Lean IT.
For additional information on how to mobilize a Lean IT transformation, see The Lean IT Field Guide – A Roadmap for Your Transformation.
This is Part 3 of Sequences, Behaviors and Integrating Adaptive Lean IT Systems – an updated article originally published in the Lean Management Journal in October 2015.
At the end of the day, all change comes down to altering our established patterns of behavior. Anyone who has attempted to make a lifestyle change (such as quitting smoking or eating healthier) can attest to how difficult this is.
It is interesting to note that most transformations tend to focus on training people in the new ways of doing things. We assume that if people know about a new (presumable better) way of doing something, they will automatically adopt it as their regular way of acting. Nothing could be further from the truth. If knowing about a better behavior caused people to change their actions and develop new habits, no one would be overweight, use tobacco products, or run on less than 6 hours of sleep!
We are all creatures of habit and become very comfortable with the way we’ve always done it, even when our routines become outdated, broken, and painfully frustrating. Why? Because it is really difficult to change the behavior of others or even ourselves. This resistance to change is a universal condition that, unless addressed directly and openly, puts all transformation efforts at serious risk.
MAKE/BREAK, CADENCE, & PREDICTABILITY
There are three factors you need to know about to effectively address this issue: make/break, cadence, and predictability. So what does it take to make or break a habit? I have confirmed it requires 40 days of practicing a new behavior before we can even begin to change old habits. At 90 days we have confirmed and strengthened the routine. At 120 days the new habit becomes deeply engrained as a part of our identity (how we see ourselves). At 1,000 days we have mastered the new behavior. Here’s the secret: the days must be consecutive! That’s right – if you miss a day, any day, the next day is Day One and you start counting from the beginning. I have personally used this approach to successfully affect change at both organizational and personal levels and it works.
Why is this approach so effective? People like routine and predictability – we are hard-wired to repeat what has worked before and to be skeptical of anything outside the conventional pattern. Most people drive to work using the same route, walk through a grocery store selecting the same items, watch the same TV programs, and go to bed at the same time – you get the picture. By enforcing a new routine and deliberately changing our behavior, we gradually provide the predictability and structure our human nature innately desires. When the changes make our work better, faster, less stressful, and prove to be more rewarding, that further reinforces the value of the routine and new habits begin to take deeper root.
As new work processes yield better results including more consistent quality, less rework, variability, and overburden, predictability of outcomes increases and we receive yet another dose of reinforcement – increased customer satisfaction!
THE KEY SYSTEM – PROBLEM SOLVING
An example may serve to clarify this approach to creating new habits. Let’s assume you have introduced lean problem solving to your IT group as part of your transformation. People have received training in basic lean concepts including PDCA, A3, and root cause analysis. The assumption is that once people understand lean problem solving, they will use it in their daily work. This rarely happens. In most cases about 10% of your people will be self-starters and try to apply lean practices on their own. The vast majority of people attend the training and think, “That’s interesting…” and then go back to work using their normal ways of getting things done. They quickly fall back to their comfort zone, which excludes the ideas and tools shared in the training workshop.
Applying the make/break, cadence, and predictability concepts, we would include problem solving as an essential element of our daily team huddles and visual management system. On a daily basis, the team would be coached by responding to questions of inquiry designed to foster new ways of applying what was learned during the training on problem solving. The only way people learn lean is by doing lean!
In the final post of this series, we’ll explore the importance of work systems and sequencing to build adaptive Lean IT systems.
This is Part 2 of Sequences, Behaviors and Integrating Adaptive Lean IT Systems – an updated article published in the Lean Management Journal in October 2015.
Today, many companies are actively seeking the benefits of lean IT and are undergoing constant transportation in their IT group. They are often familiar with lean and/or Six Sigma and have had some success with process improvement in other areas of the business such as manufacturing, accounting, and supply chain.
However, the landscape of IT, the complexity and dynamics of technology, the interdependency of its functional silos, and conflicting priorities when working with the Business, all combine to create a perfect storm of distinctive obstacles.
There is a key relationship that exists in all organizations. When understood and appreciated, it can provide clarity and direction to a lean IT transformation.
Let’s look at the components of the lean IT diamond and why it can be so helpful. At the top of the model, we begin with Purpose. A shared purpose is essential to create and drive a common intention, alignment, and commitment. Everyone in the IT organization (as well as the Business) needs to very clear on why we are in business, why we are transforming, and where we are vs. where we need to be.
If this shared understanding is not in place, you can be certain to see different behaviors, erratic degrees of engagement, and the consequential mixed results. Without a widely understood and collective purpose that people can clearly see within the context of their daily work, everyone is left on their own to identify what matters most and determine what they should do (or not do) about it. If you have ever witnessed pockets of improvement (aka islands of lean in a sea of waste), you can be assured there is a lack of understanding around shared purpose.
The next component is People. It may seem obvious that people are a central ingredient in building a highly effective organization. What is not so obvious, or at least publicly acknowledged, is that many work environments are abundant with uncertainty, disengagement, mistrust, apathy, fear, and political gamesmanship. In our first book, Lean IT Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation, I noted that people are often the only appreciating asset in an organization. When we treat people with respect and create systems and processes that position them for success, we cultivate trust, engagement, teamwork, and high levels of performance. Perhaps the most essential element in a successful transformation is to ensure the initiative is behavior-based. See the next post in this series for a discussion of behavior-based change.
Process represents the work we do to create value for our customers, to collaborate with our partners (the Business, vendors, supply chain, and outside resources), and to ultimately fulfill the mission of our organization. When processes are undefined, unclear, or not consistently followed, the effort required, the time it takes, the quality of the outcomes, and the frustration of staff and customers all become highly unstable and inconsistent.
The final component of the lean IT diamond is Information and Technology. It is useful to think of these two elements as distinct yet highly interdependent. With respect to information, IT is the mechanism that transforms raw data into useful and actionable information. IT, when done well, is the connective nervous system that joins people with actionable information.
Concerning technology, IT is the enabler of the business – capturing, organizing, and storing immense amounts of data, routine tasks, building transactional records, enforcing business process rules, managing secure access, all while providing work process functionality and visibility to all functional areas of the business.
The flow of complete, accurate, timely, and actionable information is a key determinant of the flow of customer value and organizational performance. When IT stops, the Business stops. When IT flows, information flows and the Business is positioned for success (of course it takes more than just great IT).
Updated article which recently appeared in the October 2015 edition of the Lean Management Journal
Transformation is today’s buzzword. It seems everyone in the lean community is talking about transformation. This makes sense given that we’ve spent the past several decades attempting to understand, copy, and adapt the improvement tools of Deming, Ohno, Shingo, and others and getting mixed results. Today we have only a handful of companies we might describe as Lean Enterprises and Toyota remains as the undisputed archetype. So what is transformation and why are so many companies pursuing it? Transformation is often described using words such as radical change, metamorphosis, revolution, and overhaul. Perhaps the most important aspect of a true transformation is that it is irreversible. This is the characteristic of lean transformation that has eluded most organizations. Granted, they have trained their people in the tools and core concepts, experienced process improvements through kaizen, made changes to the physical environment, introduced lean management systems, and have realized measureable results.
TRANSFORMATION IS DIFFICULT TO SUSTAIN – THE PUNISHMENT OF SISYPHUS
But what many organizations discover is that the momentum and energy required to keep their transformation going is being provided by a small group of people (usually the Process Improvement team, a cadre of lean coaches, or a charismatic lean champion). If they stop leading the charge, improvement work and the underlying transformation immediately begin to taper off. It’s as if organizational momentum is a large stone that needs to be constantly pushed up hill – if we stop pushing, it quickly rolls back down! This reminds me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who was punished for being deceitful by being forced to carry a huge boulder up a mountain, only to watch it roll back down, for all of eternity. Many organizations seem to be stuff in a similar loop!
LEAN IT IS ESSENTIAL
Delivering value to the customer is a common objective of practically every organization in existence. In order to accomplish this, it is essential to deliver services, products, and information which meets customer-defined quality, at a price they are willing to pay, and at a pace that matches customer demand. With the advent of the Internet, smartphones, and unprecedented access to information, customer expectations of quality, value, variety, convenience, and delivery have been increasing rapidly and there is no end in site. In order to meet customer expectations, today’s business climate is categorically reliant on the flow of information. Modern-day business process improvement, a collection of principles, systems, and tools aimed at creating a culture of continuous process improvement has evolved over the past 100 years or so. Most recently, we have been witnessing an explosion of improvement methodologies in the Information and Technology space. This comes as no surprise given our insatiable need for the information we require to make timely, informed decisions in response to ever-increasing customer expectations.
In the 1980’s, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) emerged as a set of standard practices for IT which focused on aligning IT services with the needs of business (a novel idea at the time). ITIL has gone through several iterations and evolved to include a continuous service improvement component that embraces many of the tenets of lean thinking. Since then, we have seen the further application of lean in IT including Agile/Scrum, Kanban, Continuous Delivery, Lean Startup, DevOps, and Lean/ Agile Project Management.
I refer to this entire body of IT performance improvement as lean IT. Lean IT is the application of lean through to Information, Communication, and Technology. It’s a management system made up of two key pillars: continuous process improvement and respect for people. Lean IT is ultimately a learning system using a structured and disciplined approach to solving problems and pursuing opportunities. Lean IT focuses on engaging IT people to methodically improve IT processes in partnership with the Business to deliver more value to end users and enable the Business to deliver more value to end customers. This includes getting out on a regular basis to better understand the challenges and value equations of end users and see how information and technology are really being used. Lean IT is about engaging people, improving core business processes, and leveraging technology to enable the entire organization to accomplish more, create more, and achieve more with the least effort required.
In the next installment of this post, we’ll explore the Lean IT Diamond and that fact, although transformation is extremely difficult, it is not impossible.
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