Lean Before You Agile.
Digital transformation has become business as usual for many organisations. Some have reached their cyber reset and are in the process of fine-tuning, while others are just starting.
Reading about these journeys in the media and hearing about them through my network, I spot a pattern: those who adopt Agile are the winners. Those who don’t face their transformation project dragging on. Why?
Agile stands for collaboration, speed, focus, and the ability to be proactive. With methodologies such as Waterfall and PRINCE2, however, the processes are not addressed, only the outcomes. And without removing the waste in the process, new and unnecessary problems and barriers are created in the transformation programme.
Lean before you Agile means exactly that: walk before you run. How?
As much as the phrase of the season for cyber transformation is “streamline: reduce your attack surface,” the same needs to be applied to your processes, tools, and collaborative flows. In Lean, there are essential tools that you should use for a better Agile run: KATA, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), and Kaizen bursts. Perhaps the best way to think of these is: Agile as the Sprint and Lean as the long-run marathon.
Perhaps the best way to think is: Agile as the Sprint and Lean as the long-run marathon
Start by identifying where you are: what is the workflow? What urgently needs changing? Perhaps you require faster recruitment to fulfil gaps in your team during delivery at speed? Let us use this example to show the practicalities of these three tools.
Your team has a high turnover, and you rely heavily on recruitment. Currently, it takes four months to hire a new person, which is way too long for your needs. Start by finding the key pain points and using KATA to identify your final ideal position: let us say that reducing the hiring process from four to two months is your ideal target. You cannot reduce this in just one step, so you identify what steps are needed to reach that final target.
This alone will not help much. So on that first step, you run a VSM of the process’ flow: how long between tasks and how much value they add to the final outcome? The aim is to remove any actions or tasks that do not add value to the desired outcome from the moment you decide to hire till the moment the new hire starts.
Applying VSM and improvement KATA can and will streamline your processes. It will remove most of the waste slowing your Agile down. However, improving processes takes time and more often than not, this vital achievement is consigned to the least important actions amongst the Agile sprints for delivery, security, and operations. This is where Lean’s Kaizen steps in with its continuous improvement processes outlined with the Plan Do Check Act to enable consistency.
Dedicating time to use these tools is not only imperative but also the solution for a sustainable transformation, be it digital or cyber.