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SPaMCAST 505 features our recent essay titled, Coaching: Six Modes of OperationOn the surface, coaching is a fairly simple role. A coach has six basic modes of operation.  But…if you peel back the layers just a little bit you will find that coaching is part art and part science.

In the second spot of this week’s magazine have the penultimate session of our read of Steve Tendon and Wolfram Müller’s Hyper-Productive Knowledge Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach.  

I have moved things around a bit and complete this edition of the SPaMCAST with an essay on servant leadership from the Software Sensei, Kim Pries.  Regardless of how you define servant leadership, I think we would all agree that good leadership is critical.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we begin the read of The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along). The version of the book we are reading is published by Metropolitan Books, 2009 and is the 22nd printing. The book has nine chapters and with acknowledgments has 209 pages. My reading plan is one chapter per week, therefore, the re-read will span 11 weeks.  


Current Installment:

Week 1 – Approach and Introduction



SPaMCAST 506 will feature our interview with Mark Kilby.  Mark and I discussed agile in distributed environments. Agile in distributed environments is doable but it isn’t easy, Mark provides guidance and advice.

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SPaMCAST 499 will feature our essay on trust and coaching. Coaches are among most effective tools used to help teams improve. In SPaMCAST 496 – Sam Laing I highlighted the need for trust between a coach and the team or person they are coaching. Without trust, a coach will not be very effective.  Two powerful and related tools!

In the rocker as they call it stock car racing is Wolfram Müller. Wolfram co-authored Hyper-Productive Knowledge Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach with Steve Tendon.  We talk about Chapter 23 titled Reliable Scrum and Reliable Kanban. Wolfram can be found on LinkedIn at

Anchoring the cast is the Software Sensei, Kim Pries.  Kim discusses software safety. Tools and software languages can have a major impact on software safety and all of our lives depend on software these days!

Re-Read Saturday News

In week 14 of our re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!  we begin Part IV of Turn The Ship Around and tackle chapter 21. The first three parts of the book bring the story to the beginning of deployment of the Santa Fe.  Part IV picks up from that point! (more…)

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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 Problem (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.