Listen Now
Subscribe: Apple Podcast
Check out the podcast on Google Play Music


SPaMCAST 495 features our essay titled, The Definition of Done: Simplicity and Complexity Revisited. The Definition of Done is an important agile technique to help teams plan and execute work. The simplest definition of the Definition of Done is the criteria that a work product must meet to be considered to be complete. While the concept is simple, the implementation of the technique in the real world is rarely simple. Both context and interpretations make things just a bit gray!

Our second column features Jon Quigley’s column, The Alpha and Omega of Product Development. In this installment Jon and I discussed Muda, waste, and whether failed innovations are waste.

Kim Pries, the Software Sensei, contributes his essay Kanban to the Kanban Power.  Kim talks about using kanban to guide and control work both in the workplace and at home.  

Re-Read Saturday News

In week ten of the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!  (Buy Your Copy Now) we add two more mechanisms for control and complete part two of the book.  This week the two chapters are A New Ship and We Have A Problem.

Current Installment:

Week 10: A New Ship and We Have A Problemhttps://bit.ly/2IUJ6RL (more…)

A Beer, A Dessert or Both!

Kaizen covers a wide range of activities. Anchoring the two ends of the range are the two core types of kaizen: flow and process kaizen. The Gemba Academy calls these two types of kaizen, point and system kaizen. For the sake of simplicity, because the word process is used more broadly in process improvement we will use the terms point and system. System kaizen relates to studying and changing how materials or information move through an organization. Refining or rearranging the flow of a system can require the reorganizing of a whole organization. System kaizen delivers more wide-ranging value, but is rarer than point kaizen. Point kaizen focuses on changing the specific day-to-day activities performed by people or machines. In manufacturing terms, point kaizen changes work stands or workstations. Point kaizen, often shortened simply to kaizen, refers to small-scale continuous changes that are an important part of continuous process improvement programs. Both types of changes are typically required to generate sustainable discontinuous changes within an organization needed to address a dynamic world. The characteristics of the two extremes of the kaizen continuum help to illuminate their individual and joint usage.


Point or Process Kaizen Flow or System Kaizen
Process Focus System Focus
Workcell Impact Organizational Impact
Incremental Change Discontinuous Change
Discrete from Other Kaizen Events Group of Interrelated Events
Reactive Proactive

Focusing on a specific process, task or activity is both a strength and a weakness for point kaizen. The rigorous focus of point kaizen is very similar to use of timeboxes in agile. The use of a specifically focused event is useful to break through analysis paralysis.  The short focused nature of kaizen events remind the participants that they must deliver value quickly. The downside is that incrementalism can lead to local optimization (optimizing a step at the expense of the overall system). A retrospective is a close cousin to a very short point kaizen event.

System kaizen requires taking a system thinking point of view. Practitioners of system kaizen will need to develop a vision of the future state vision for the whole organization, leveraging concepts like value stream maps. Systems kaizen identifies areas to use process kaizen (but rarely the other way around). Executing system level kaizen requires long-term coordination of multiple interrelated kaizen events.

Regardless of which type of approach, the goal of any kaizen is to identify changes that make the organization better. One metric of successful change is the impact on the bottom line. Regardless of initial success and celebration, change must be sustainable to be truly successful. You must consider the impact on the value stream and business value when evaluating the effectiveness of a kaizen event. The impact of change events, especially those not connected to an overall vision can often be fleeting. Fleeting equates to rapid incremental change followed by equally fast memory loss when the next new idea for change is identified. Point kaizen coordinated by system kaizen delivers more coordinated value than incremental change alone.

Planning Is required to deliver value!

The many types of kaizen events are more than ad hoc ceremonies. (We will review different types of events next). In order to effectively pull off a kaizen, or change event, practitioners will need both a structure and a plan . Structure and the plan work together. Having a plan allows the organization sponsoring the change to anticipate what will occur, when it will occur, the required people and resources and when to expect an outcome. A six-step structure includes: (more…)

You can ride the continuous improvement train forever!

Kaizen is the Japanese word for improvement. In business, that definition gets expanded to encompass a broader meaning. Kaizen in the workplace is continuous improvement generated by numerous small, incremental changes. Because the changes generated through a Kaizen approach are small they are identified, analyzed, piloted and implemented quickly, shortcutting bureaucracy that drives the cost of change upward. Kaizen shortens the cycle time from idea generation to value delivery. The pedigree of Kaizen traces back to the idea of continuous improvement, which is one of the central tenants of the Toyota Production System (TPS). The scope of continuous improvement programs can include the whole organization: from the executive offices to the shop floor, and address issues impacting process and flow. Kaizen, continuous improvement, is industry and technology agnostic and is applicable in all walks of life. Kaizen might be the most democratic approach to change. Regardless of whether an organization takes a pluralistic approach, the goal of continuous improvement is to help teams to eliminate waste (Muda, Muri, Mura), while improving an organization’s capability to deliver value. (more…)

Control Flow!

Drum Buffer Rope (DBR) Is a process control mechanism developed from Ely Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (TOC).  In the book The Goal, Goldratt explains how a constraint can impact the performance of a process. The TOC is based on three assumptions (see Kanban and The Theory of Constraints):

  1. All systems are limited by a small number of constraints
  2. There is always at least one constraint in a process
  3. Flow can only be increased by increasing the flow through a constraint.


Listen Now
Subscribe: Apple Podcast
Check out the podcast on Google Play Music

SPaMCAST 489 features our essay titled, Lean: The Science and Art of a Gemba Walk Deciding on the purpose and scope of a Gemba walk is part science and part art. The part that is science is driven by measurement and observation of the organization’s value stream(s). The art is applied to decide where to look to begin with and in the empathy, you apply during the walk!

Our second column features Jon M Quigley who brings his Alpha and Omega of Product Development to the cast.  In this segment, we discuss agile development. Jon’s previous column considered agile culture. Listen to SPaMCAST 483 (https://bit.ly/2GHzI41).  

Gene Hughson of Form Follows Function anchors the cast.  He discusses his great article, There is no right way (though there are plenty of wrong ones) (https://bit.ly/2EsNqlj) Gene suggests “After all, at the end of the day, if there were only one right way to design a system, would anyone need an architect?”

Re-Read Saturday News (more…)

Why, Just Why?

The 5 Whys is a tool used to drill down through surface answers to the root cause of an issue or circumstance by iteratively asking why, listening to the answer, and using the answer to form the basis of the next why question. As with many other lean techniques, the 5 Whys is deceptively simple. The basic process used for team root cause analysis is: (more…)

Get The Beat!

Takt time is the beat or cadence of a process. The word Takt, translated from German, is the baton stroke an orchestra conductor uses to control the tempo or flow of the music. Based on the “demands” of the score the conductor uses the baton to signal changes in the beat. Lean uses this metaphor as a monitoring and predictive tool. Takt time is the completion rate at which finished product meets customer demand. The concept provides a useful tool to monitor manufacturing, transaction processing and even predictability in the software arena. In all cases, the goal of determining Takt time is to match or control production with demand. Matching demand contributes to improved customer satisfaction and quality.

To calculating takt time, divide the Net Available Time by Customer Demand. (more…)

The goal of learning and leveraging lean principles in an organization is to improve value delivery. In order to get the biggest bang for the buck, practitioners need to take a systems approach to what they analyze and change. Lean, like agile, works best when we change the flow of work. This is one of the reasons value stream mapping is a powerful lean tool. Given the expansive – soup to nuts – perspective, lean practitioners use many techniques to stay focused. The 5 Ms from lean manufacturing is a focusing tool. The 5 Ms provides a framework to consider five of the controllable inputs into any process. While the 5 Ms are part of lean manufacturing, it takes very little imagination to use the 5 Ms as a focusing tool for any process flow. The 5 Ms are: (more…)

A3 Does Not Leave You Hanging!

The A3 method is a structured problem-solving approach first used as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS). Many organization use the concepts found in TPS for lean and continuous process improvement. Different industries are no barrier for using techniques like A3; examples include industries as far afield as software development and medicine. A3 is a deceptively simple tool to structure problem solving by focusing. A3 is an extension of the principles of Deming and Shewhart. Deming’s ideas on quality and efficiency had a HUGE impact on the transformation of the Japanese economy in the second half of the 1900’s.  A3 is directly mappable to the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle (PDCA). (more…)

« Previous PageNext Page »