Lean Thinking for the Digital Enterprise – interview with Dan Jones

Daniel T Jones

Daniel T. Jones has contributed to arguably some of the most important management books of the last 30 years. In “The Machine that Changed the World”, and “Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Organization” Dan and Jim Womack describe the principles and practices behind the amazing growth of Japanese car manufacturer Toyota.

Dan’s thinking journey of the last few years have been quite interesting as he has been applying Lean thinking to the advent of digital. The latter has indeed been one of the main topics at the center of his interests: you can tell from the last conferences Dan gave. I personnaly find it interesting as this is somehow the opposite journey as the one I have made, from digital (collaboration platforms, agile …) to Lean. Note that I am not pretending here that my work is comparable to his invaluable contribution to management thinking.

Dan is a busy man. Yet he somehow managed to allow us some of his precious time. We are so grateful and honored to discuss the intersection of Lean thinking and digital with one of the men who invented the word Lean and deciphered Toyota system for us. Continue reading “Lean Thinking for the Digital Enterprise – interview with Dan Jones”

Three reasons why Lean will save your job

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(Version française)

Workers of the 21st century western world, unite !

The 1973 oil crisis has been a key moment. At this point in time, people from the south decided to stop fostering western countries middle class growth with cheap resources. Since then, we have witnessed our job security been compromised by many different factors. For the sake of brevity I will only consider three in this article.

The first one is globalization. People from all around the world are jumping on the opportunity of joining the western world middle class. Who could blame them ? All of a sudden they have the ability to afford for a decent living, pay for studies for their children to get graduated and the prospect of social promotion.

The second one is boredom. Companies have spent since the 90s a terrific amount of energy (and money ! ask Oracle or Salesforce) to rationalize processes and freeze them into IT enterprise systems. The workforce is now completely subjected to mostly dysfunctional IT systems, processes are completely pulverized and employees, having lost the contact with the customer, have lost the meaning of their work.

The third one is a more recent one : robots and algorithms. Engineer dreams is to design people out of the system to make it “perfect” (cough) : the advent of robots and algorithms is a dream come true for the Engineer culture.

So where do we go from there you might think ? Who gonna save our jobs ? If you are serious enough about these questions, the benevolent shadow of Taiichi Ohno is looking after you. Lean can help in overcoming these threats, keeping our jobs and, into the bargain, making us more engaged in our work. Here’s why …

Continue reading “Three reasons why Lean will save your job”

Agile is Dead – Long Live Lean

This is a rather technical, yet strongly recommended talk by Dave Thomas in the goto; conference (love that name). Refer to the seminal corresponding blog post.

Dave (aka @pragdave) is a software craftman and he knows a couple of things about Agile methodologies : he was there on that day. There are a couple of interesting things in this talk. Continue reading “Agile is Dead – Long Live Lean”

Hiring Vs Developing Smart Creatives

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When we contrast the traditional knowledge worker with the engineers and other talented people who have surrounded us at Google over the past decade, we see that our Google peers represent a quite different type of employee. (…) They are a new kind of animals, a kind we call a “smart creative” and they are the key to achieving success in the internet century.

Continue reading “Hiring Vs Developing Smart Creatives”

Sunday Quote – Sherry Turkle

Overwhelmed by the pace that technology makes possible, we think about how new, more efficient technologies might help dig us out. But new devices encourage ever-greater volume and velocity. In this escalation of demands, one of the things that comes to feel safe is using technology to connect to people at a distance, or more precisely, to a lot of people from a distance. But even a lot of people from a distance can turn out to be not enough people at all (…) Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. (…) Our networked life allows us to hide from each other even as we are tethered to each other.

Sherry Turkle is Professor of Social Studies of Science and Technologies at MIT. This blog has already discusses about her rather fascinating TED talk. The quote above is taken from her book Alone Together – Why we expect more from technology and less from each other.

This books shares many stories to make his point, the one from the quote above. It is not very comfortable read but it is a critical one. Especially when you have teenagers at home addicted to their Facebook profile which somehow makes them lose sight of reality. I am quite surprised as many online friends avoid the conversation altogether.

While I was reading this book, I managed to incidentally see Her the beautiful movie by Spike Jonze telling the love story between a melancholic guy and an electronic device (OK : with Scarlett Johansson voice). The movie has vividly resonated with the main themes of the book. A strongly recommend one to watch.

Myths of the 21st century organization and the sad truth about enterprise collaboration

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There have been 2 milestones in my story with online collaboration tools. First, at the turn of the century, these have helped me to get out of a very tricky professional situation. Then I was fascinated by the geek culture after I joined an innovative start-up in 2004, where everybody would use such tools while collaborating in a very efficient way. And I kept on telling myself : why on earth isn’t everyone working like this ? This is fun, exciting, engaging I need to tell the world this is the way to go.

I have been a very active supporter of these ever since, in particular during the 2009 – 2011 period during which I have blogged extensively on the topic. Looking back to this activism, I have realized that I was making some major misconceptions, the very same that people talking about future of work or hacker culture are making today IMHO.

  1. People who are not digital literate won’t see the value of online collaboraton tools, especially if they don’t collaborate in the first place. In other words, technology is more an obstacle than an enabler to create a culture of collaboration.
  2. The hacking culture has emerged from people who are more comfortable collaborating online then in real life. Thank God, we are a minority (I’m counting myself in).
  3. Online collaboration tools are used to scale collaboration throughout the organization. If there is no collaboration in the enterprise, you ain’t gonna scale anything but frustration.

If buying enterprise software was actually solving organization problems, my job (organization coach/consultant, i.e. fixing broken organizations) would not be a multi-billion dollar industry. If this a strategy, it is just a CIO/VP self-preservation one (“No CIO hs been fired for buying ${enterprise_software_vendor} solutions”).

This easy approach has even less chances to succeed for something as fragile as enterprise collaboration. It may, though, in very specific contexts, but in my opinion these are more evidences of leadership of the professionals making their project a success (Claire FlanaganDan Pontrefact, or Celine Schillinger being names coming to mind) than evidences of the viability of such initiatives.

Baring in mind these sad truths, this post proposes an alternate strategy to root collaboration in the organization. Continue reading “Myths of the 21st century organization and the sad truth about enterprise collaboration”

Sunday Quote : Alvin Toffler

“The Illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”

Alvin Toffler is is an American writer and futurist, known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communication revolution and technological singularity.

It is a very popular (and slided) quote. I have seen it in the slide deck of two very influent people in my career : Multi-talented blogger and über expert in social collaboration Rawn Shah and connected machine services visionary, Daniel Harari, the Lectra CEO.

Everybody agrees on the necessity of learning. However, not so many people promote the necessity of unlearning, i.e changing habits and mental models. Try brushing your teeth with th other hand or fold you arms the other way as Mike Rother suggests in this amazing talk, you’ll know how it feels to get out of your’s comfort zone.

How do you learn, unlearn and relearn ? How can you tell you have learnt, how do you know ? How is your company doing it ?