Agile in the West Midlands

We recently ran our Agile Workshop "0 to Agile in 100 Days" at the Birmingham Science Park Aston, with the simple aim of gauging the level of Agile adoption in the West Midlands. Judging by the turn out, and the positive feedback from the participants there's definitely agile life out there, and many thanks to all who took the time out to attend.

The assumption we were trying to prove was as follows: given agile development owes much to the teachings of lean manufacturing, in particular within the automotive industry, would the Midlands be a natural hot spot for agile thought leadership, given the region's heritage in the manufacturing industry? Unfortunately we ran out of time before we could go through our Waste Workshop in detail which was designed to get some feedback on the level of latent knowledge of lean principles within the audience, so there's no statistical data that can verify this assumption, but if anyone wants to try the following exercise I'd value your thoughts.

The Seven Wastes

Much of lean manufacturing was distilled in the Toyota Production System developed between 1948 and 1975 - there's a great history of Toyota Manufacturing here - I'm not going to comment on recent issues with Toyota's quality systems (Sean O'Grady did that better than I could) . To paraphrase, TPS suggests there are seven different types of waste (or Muda in Japanese) that should be eliminated to reduce lead times, cut costs, and generally improve quality. The seven types of Muda are as follows:

  1. Overproduction - don't make more than your client actually needs
  2. Unnecessary transportation - don't move something you don't have to
  3. Inventory - don't have more raw materials, work in process or finished products than you currently need
  4. Motion - don't move around more than you need to
  5. Defects - don't break things and you won't have to waste time fixing them
  6. Over-processing - don't make things unnecessarily complex
  7. Waiting - don't waste time hanging around

The "game" of the Waste Workshop was to map these seven wastes onto the various agile practices we'd ran through in our case studies in the earlier sessions. So, picking the easiest example:

The waste of Defects: can be addressed through Test Driven Development, Continuous Integration, Pairing, and a Zero Bug Policy.

You could also argue that practices such as Daily Stand-ups, Card Walls / Kanban, User Stories and the like can help to identify defects earlier and therefore could be included. That's the beauty of an agile workshop - as the saying goes, "put 5 agile experts in a room and you'll get 6 opinions" - but I'd like to get some data to try to map waste to agile in more detail.

If anyone wants to see the content of the workshop it's available here - drop me a line for the password - and if I find the right plug-in, I'll make an electronic version of the Waste Workshop game to put on the site.

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