ALM Summit 2013 - some thoughts on keynote by Dean Leffingwell

Leffingwell’s presentation was on Scaled Agile Framework (SAFE), and an explanation on Lean applied to software development. He showed how Scrum fits neatly with Lean principles:

“Scrum is founded on Lean

  • Cross functional teams
  • Time boxes to limit WIP
  • Sprints provide fast feedback
  • Empowered, local decision making
  • ·Colocation reduces batch sized and communication overhead

XP is quintessentially Lean [etc]”

Also while talking about applying WIP constraints he mentioned the following:

“Timeboxes prevent uncontrolled expansion of work making wait times predictable.”

This to me resolves one of those artificial conflicts between Scrum and Lean/Kanban: that timeboxes are not useful anymore. Leffingwell provides a very fresh view on a subject that tends to get polarized once in a while.

However I am still pondering if ideas that have origin in manufacturing are fully applicable to an intellectual endeavor such as software development. To me the bottleneck is managing creative people so as to raise in them the motivation to do their best work, and excellence follows naturally. Lean seems to me (at this point of my research) more on the side of getting out of the way the hurdles caused by administrators that imagine that they can manage developers as they manage robots in a factory floor. Queuing theory understanding helps alleviate the burden caused by managers that want to over-optimize the external measures of efficiency, such as hours, backlog size, etc., that is, physical coordination.

Don’t get me wrong, this is useful to put some restraints on the “Office Space” manager kind. However, the effect on motivation is just to free up the mind of the developer so they can have the ideal proposed by Kent Beck as the “40-hour work week”, that is, the effect to me is essentially cleaning up the road. The road trip has yet to be done.

I was listening again to Jim McCarthy’s presentation on how he achieved a “shared mindset” with the Visual Studio team. That was real motivation, the kind that can make a developer, who is just doing their minimum to get-by until he finds something better, into someone who can be ten times more productive only because now he is motivated to do so. This is the kind of productivity management the software industry needs today, and will always need.

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