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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Start witht he IT implications of a model line, and get expert coaching

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, August 5, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

My first reaction is that if this is a new lean effort, e.g., less then 2 years into it, specific action by IT can easily do more harm then good. This happens when the core processes have not been well defined, and therefore their information needs are not well defined, and IT starts developing “lean software” that is a distraction and not what the value-added workers need. For example, IT jumps in to develop an electronic kanban system when the company does not have the discipline or understanding to run even a basic manual kanban system. This happened in one of our clients and much of the production and material flow group’s time was devoted to implementing the IT system instead of working at the gemba to understand the basic discipline needed for effective pull.

My second reaction is that it is possible for IT to participate in the transformation, if and only if, you have enough strong lean coaching support to help you do it right. Often in a fast paced “lean transformation” the few people who understand lean deeply are stretched very thin. So a department like IT gets started on their own and does the wrong things.

If in fact there is some help available to coach and guide your organization then I would suggest picking a model line project in order to begin to understand how to give IT support in a lean way. A lean way means really understanding the customer’s needs, turning those needs into requirements for the IT system, and having a systematic process following Plan-Do-Check-Act if developing the software and constantly checking in with the customer so you adjust and learn. It often involves a cross-functional team meeting regularly in a visual planning room, obeya in Toyota parlance.

A somewhat unique approach is taken by Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan that does only custom software development and has an end-to-end lean system in a large open office without dedicated teams or obeya. Rather the walls of the open office are where visual management is done and programmers, who work only in pairs, shift teams and even projects week to week. Great explanations and you tube videos are available.

http://www.menloinnovations.com

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