Dear Rob – 1
Let’s assume Rob is a senior executive, with some oversight for an Agile initiative. He is a business person, not in any way a techie. What would you say to him? Well, here is the first in a series of posts for Rob; what I want to say to him.
Note: Rob is not a specific person, but rather I have put together several specific people into this one ‘character,’ Rob.
We think it is very important for senior executives to set the right tone for product development.
So, as a start, see “The Toyota Way” by Jeffrey Liker. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Fujio Cho (then President of Toyota) gives the quote you will see.
We place the highest value on actual implementation and taking action.
Read that whole quote.
It discusses how we create knowledge in the fastest possible way by making mistakes, by admitting to small failures and learning from them. This is in fact the way that Fujio Cho himself learned from Taiichi Ohno, when he was his protege, as everyone in Toyota knows.
The people using Lean-Agile-Scrum need to know that you understand this. Not, of course, that you want them to fail in a big way. But rather, given the nature of their work, especially new product development work, that you understand that acting is usually the fastest way to learn, that mistakes will of course be made, AND that they are expected to learn from the mistakes.
Often they must learn by discussing the mistakes with managers and other who can help them learn. They must do ‘root cause analysis,’ for example, to enable themselves to learn faster. And fairly quickly, to drive quality up.
By going slow, we go fast.
So, I suggest you ask managers under you to allow everyone to tell more and more of the truth, and not just ask, but show it to them in the way you handle real situations (use real situations to embody the message). Even the truth that we really want to hide our eyes from (and probably have been hiding our eyes from). It is much easier to manage with the truth.
I am sure that you understand there is no implicit criticism of you personally here, but there is an implicit criticism of prior management cultures that your people are so used to. That told them, over and over again, to lie (no one ever said: “You must lie,” but that was really the message, and no doubt this started before they ever came to your firm) and to pretend they were perfect (which is an awful burden to bear).
To the degree your firm and firm culture have fully embraced Lean, this will be an easy change. My opinion, based on maybe much too little time at your firm, is that, well, let’s say that your firm still has a way to go in embracing real Lean — at least in the areas I have seen. (And also, honestly, because your firm does know Lean pretty well in some areas, you have a huge advantage compared to other firms.)
You may find it odd that we ask you to help your people become more honest (‘everyone should already be honest,’ you might say to yourself), but honestly, dishonesty is common everywhere, even in your place.
Feedback should always go both directions, so please tell me:
- Is what I have said helpful?
- There are related things I already want to talk about more, so if you have particular interests or questions, we can tilt in that direction. Please tell me.
- There are completely unrelated things I also want to talk about. Again, if you have particular interests, please tell me.