Monday, August 10, 2009

It All Goes Back to Deming, et al

The discussion about Agile, Lean and Kanban is relatively new compared to how long all of these ideas have been actively practiced/discussed individually. I recall a statement by Alistair Cockburn a few years ago (I think at an Agile 200n Conference, but can't swear to it) where he first noted how much similarity there was between Lean ideas and Agile ones. Of course, the Poppendiecks have been writing and speaking about application of Lean ideas to software for many years.

What strikes me in all ofthis (and other organizational culture, change/improvement, and quality-related topics) is how it all seems to end up connecting right back to Deming, in particular, and other "early" quality figures. What industry, in the USA at least, seems to have latched onto, though, were the technical/statistical practices advocated by such people along with some process ones. The people and value-centered ideas seem to have gotten far less attention in actual practice.

One small example unrelated to agile methods, per se, is how all the Capability Maturity Models got a lot of attention, except the People CMM. The P-CMM 1.0 version came out in 1998, followed by the 2.0 version 2001. A 2.0 2nd ed just came out in July. This document is about organizing the human resource systems in an organization to support and treat people in a manner that would complement the more technical process goals of the other CMMs.

Another example was some debate that went on between sessions and at the receptionat Agile Roots 2009 where the technical practices aspects of Agile methods were characterized as the "real" Agile roots. Again, Alistair not, when I mentioned it to him, that folks saying this obviously weren't the ones present when the Manifesto was written as the social/cultural ideas were the basis for it. Reading the Manifesto's values and principles, it seems hard for me to imagine otherwise. I found it strange that such debate went on at an Agile conference, but, perhaps, upon reflection, it isn't so surprising.

I have also been told that the Manifesto has been described by some customers as "content-free," meaning that there was nothing there to really disagree with as it was all rather social "motherhood" sounding. So, even when the social/cultural focus is recognized, it seems people do not find it substantive enough to consider as important as technical practices.

But, like the Manifesto, Deming's 14 Points are largely about organizational cultural change:

1) Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and stay in business, and to provide jobs.

2) Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.

3) Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

4) End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move towards a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

5) Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

6) Institute training on the job.

7) Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8 of "Out of the Crisis"). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.

8) Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. (See Ch. 3 of "Out of the Crisis").

9) Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.

10) Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.

11) Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership. b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

12) Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality. b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia," abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective (See Ch. 3 of "Out of the Crisis").

13) Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.

14) Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.

I'd argue that points 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 14 are absolutely about social/cultural matters involved in organizational change. Points 3, 4, 5 and 11 each have some practice-specific ideas, though there are clearly social/cultural overtones.

I have also never seen an process improvement approach that is not some form of Shewhart's PDCA cycle modified, popularized and renamed by Deming as Plan-Do-Study-Act.

This is not to denegrate the Agile, Lean and Kanban ideas, but to point out their very valid heritage which has been recognized and used in most other industries for decades. I believe these newer approaches to work, taken together, speak unequivocally about how

- people need to (be allowed to) collaborate,
- communication and feedback provide visibility and reduce error,
- change is to be viewed and handled to mitigate risk,
- delivery of business value should drive work,
- continuous reflection and improvement supports quality.

And they do so through a structure that very much follows what Deming and others started telling us a half-century, and more, ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment