Lean IT Summit 2014 : performance and people

photo(2)The Lean IT summit 2014 happened earlier this month and as usual it has been inspiring and fun. Inspiring as it was an opportunity to listen to stories from leading figures of the lean/agile community (Jeff Sutherland, Mary Poppendieck, Daniel T. Jones) or from major companies of the 21st century (Amazon, Spotify, ING direct, Nike and, of course, Toyota).

And it was fun because hanging out with the likes of Mike Orzen, Michael Ballé, Jeff Gothelf, David Boagerts and my colleagues at Operae Partners (disclaimer, the company I work for co-organizes the event) always is.

Lean in the Digital Age

Dan Jones has opened the discussion about his findings and questions regarding the relevance of lean in the digital transformation. The Sensei agrees with just about everybody thinking and writing about the knowledge economy learning is key. However, beyond wishful thinking, Lean brings a proven learning practice : through problem solving, eveyday. In our fast moving world, learning occurs while engaging with the world with the scientific method. As usual with Dan, he came out with one of the most powerful insights of the conference : “What Diderot did for the craftmans in the 18th century, Google does it for the Knowledge Workers”. Again, a stunning talk.

Lean UX

Jeff Gothelf gave some very practical return of experience of lean thinking in the digital economy through his approach of Lean UX. The whole idea in that context is that Lean not only allows you to build the product right, but most importantly, it allows you to build the right product. Lean UX draws on digital ability to provide quick feedback on a large scale to do rapid experiments and to learn from the data. Bottom line is : when we build software, we don’t implement requirements, we test hypothesis. Love his Lean UX business model :


The secret behind Scrum

Ever since I discovered it in 2007 through Henrik Kniberg book, I have always been fascinated by the Scrum framework simplicity. What I ignored, though, was the deep scientific background behind the framework. Dr Jeff Sutherland himself came to present the full story behind it. And it is just fascinating. From his time as a cadet in West Point, to his experience as a US Air Force pilot in Vietnam, his medical study about cell transformation in cancer development (and his subsequent PhD) to his expertise in high availability systems, Jeff has explained the deep and fascinating story of Scrum conception and design, based on this relentless will to go towards even more simplicity and efficiency. Currently reading his last book which aims at taking the whole business world (after the IT industry) by storm with his proven approach : I’ll be back shortly on the topic. The first Agile figure that would deserve a biopic.

The performance and people conundrum

This event also is the chance for me to run a few interviews with the speaker. What has really struck me is this pattern : you ask the speakers about achieved results and performance and they just get evasive about it. This no longer is their main topic. Excellent presentations by Benoit Charles Lavauzelle, Sari Torkkola, Emmanuel Richard, Giuseppe Conigliaro, Fred Matthijssen, Arthur van Wylick all came back with the same conclusion. The most important thing is the people. Performances is not a goal, be it operational or financial : it is just a mean. A mean that will allow the teams to rate how much they improve and, while doing so, developing their self-reliance.

Obeya, Obeya, en route pour la joie

If Pierre Masai talk was telling regarding lean in an IT environment, Fred Matthijssen made a inspiring talk on how Nike IT uses Obeya (project room with visual management) as their operating eco-system and their central hub. They started their lean journey by offering their teams a basket of snacks and fruits with a couple of days off and a mission : read the Lean IT book by Steve Bell and Mike Orzen. Fred explained how Obeya has helped them in moving away from their meeting culture and the time they used to waste preparing PPTs. Everything is on the wall, including budgets, for everyone to see, not only managers and leaders.

Will Obeya become the next mega-trend in the digital world ? That would come as some kind of irony that papers and post-it become the de facto operational system of IT organizations. Yet, as Fred shows how it allows to develop intense collaboration, transparency and trust, and as it fully compatible with agile, as it extends it, that would not surprise me.

The trend towards IT insourcing

This is a topic that appears at each Lean IT Summit edition. Faurecia and Catherine Chabiron last year, ING Direct and Jannes Smit and David Boagaerts this year. Companies trying to become more agile and lean tend at some point to insource their IT. David and Jannes made a straight forward statement about this : “IT is a core business so we decided to insource as opposed to outsource”. Something we later discussed extensively with Laurent Bossavit and Ismael Héry. We’ll get back to you on this soon …

Another great statement by the dynamic duet, the first time I hear such a brave and honest one in a conference : “the team was good and we were still having problems. So we realised the problem was us, the management team”. This makes a great difference with leaders putting the blame on the teams or managers when such change initiative fails. A very powerful talk.

Digital Transformation from the trenches

This wrap-up would not be complete without mentioning what digital transformation means for Ismael Hery (Lemonde.fr), Laurent Bossavit from Institut Agile France, Kristian Lindwall (Spotify), Marie-Pia Ignace (Institut Lean France) and the spectacular session by Carlos Condé from Amazon and their insane operational figures (see below). A definition of Digital Transformation ? Speed.

Amazon Production

Bad luck for the audience, as Sandrine Olivencia was sick and could not speak, I was the MC for the two days of the conference. Hope it won’t stop people from coming again.

Looking forward to next edition …

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