Skip to content

Lean Leadership Workshop


Last week I was privileged to attend the Lean Leadership Workshop by Mary and Tom Poppendieck. I would like to say thanks to Agilocity for bringing them to South Africa – as a trainer I understand how expensive this is 🙂

For those of you keen to see what people on the course had to say – take a look at the twitter hash tag : #LLWS12 . Though, as a frequent twitterer myself, I had NO time to tweet. The Poppendiecks kept us way too busy for that in the two days!

Lean cartoon

The course actually started a week early when we received the recommended reading list. WOW! About 200 pages and 7 videos. With our limited s..l..o..w bandwidth in SA this was tricky but do-able. I’m glad I managed to get through all the material as it was handy to have some knowledge going into the course.

Some great reading:

Some of the cool things I learned are:

Improvement Kata: Very similar to the PDCA cycle, but I like calling it a kata- it emphasizes the need to make this a practice and that it needs to keep happening so that you can apply the lessons and movements in certain contexts.

  • understand the ideal state – Where would we like to be?
  • understand the current state – How are things now?
  • what are our constraints? – Look at your measurement systems and reward systems. For example if you are looking to improve how individuals work together, eg: seniors mentoring juniors – look at how you reward the seniors. Are they rewarded for work on projects as individuals? How must this change to enable them to mentor juniors without being penalized…
Plan do check act

Actionable metrics: No matter what business you are in, you need metrics that are valuable and actionable. We all measure stuff all the time – and mostly we measure junk data. Junk data is easy to measure, truly valuable metrics are much harder to get at.

  • A/B experiments – figure out how you can do this in your line of work.
  • Net Promoters Score – are people promoting your business?

Improve capacity to deliver: This means increasing your velocity or throughout. How is this possible for you? How can you increase your throughput?

“It’s the 5 whys, not the 5 who’s” – Tom Poppendieck talking about the 5 Whys root cause analysis tool 🙂

Press Release: One of the coolest exercise for me personally was the press release. Apparently it is in use at Amazon. Every time anyone wants to make a change they first have to write a press release (for internal circulation). This will state the ‘new’ change, what problem its solving, and why it will be awesome. They also need to provide a list of FAQ’s for the change, describe the customer experience when using the change, and write a user manual for the change. All of this forces the person wanting the change to think of the solution and problem from various angles. I liken it to a more “social” form of an A3.

Decrease your waste! This was an amazing topic for me personally. In almost every case the way to increase your throughput is to decrease waste. And in most cases this is highlighted when you SLOW down! Seems a bit counter intuitive to slow down to increase throughput right? As a global community we have all become multi tasking professionals. Oh and also : Customers decide what is waste – not you!

To explore waste more we did a value stream from the customer problem until the customer is happy. We then filled in the time it takes for each step to happen (on average), and beneath that the actual time spent solving the problem. The difference between these numbers is waste. Your job is to minimise this as much as possible. Note where things queue up – those are the biggest waste areas. The good news is that those are also the easiest to resolve – just reduce your Work In Progress 🙂

lean parts

Constraints: Most problems have a time and money constraint. USe these to drive your solution and architecture. Plan the workflow and NOT the task flow.

Daily Standup: Ask how do we meet our commitment? What can we do to meet our commitment? Let the team make decisions and change solutions to meet their commitment.

“If something is hard – do it more often and you will  get better!” –  Mary Poppendieck

Measurements: There are 3 measurements you need to take: Average cycle time, the business case (return on investment) and customer satisfaction.

As you can see I absorbed a lot – and now I need to apply some of these learnings to my daily life – improvement kata – here I come. Perhaps we will blog about how we have applied this to our business at Growing Agile – the successes and failures…

It was great to meet all the people on the course from around South africa. Hopefully we will all take back a little something to our workplaces and spread some Lean thinking. I’m pretty sure we are all noticing waste everywhere!


4 thoughts on “Lean Leadership Workshop”

  1. Sam,

    Thanks for the excellent precis of this event. I am going to link to this from my site if I may.

    Here’s to ‘Growing Agile’!

    All the very best,

  2. Pingback: Memoirs and lessons from Lean Leadership workshop – Sam Laing | Agilocity

  3. Pingback: Memoirs and lessons from Lean Leadership workshop - Sam Laing - Agilocity

Comments are closed.