Lean Computer Programming
Computer programming has evolved from the old "Waterfall" methodology to Extreme Programming to Agile. The essence is reducing the time between ideation and a working prototype or deliverable. Working on small chunks of the most important functionality delivers a viable system quickly. Coding standards result in code everyone can understand. Rapid iteration (1-2 weeks per cycle) converges on customer requirements more quickly and delivers value in weeks or months, not years. This, of course, is the essence of Lean: eliminate delays. And there are more opportunities.
Rearranging the Furniture
I recently read Extreme Programming Explained, by Kent Beck (Addison-Wesley, 2000). He tells a story of consulting with a software company only to discover that the four senior programmers were located in the four corner offices of a medium-sized office building. The commute to discuss things was hobbling the development process. Kent's solution: move the four programmers to one corner where they could talk—the essence of a Lean work cell.
I recently worked with another software company that was having all kinds of problems. Again, they worked in an odd-shaped building with designers on one side and programmers on the other side separated by a long narrow hallway. I asked if they'd ever had what they considered a successful development team. Yes, they replied. The designer, coder and tester had worked in a small nook of cubicles facing each other—again a Lean work cell. I asked if they would be willing to do more of it, but they said the leadership team was against it. So I asked the leadership team if it would be okay. They said "sure, if that's what the development team wants to be more productive." Problem solved. Instead of moving the furniture, they allowed the employees to reconfigure themselves into work cells.
Similarly, Zappos, the online shoe company, arranges their offices to create what they call "collisions" among employees that lead to creativity and productivity.
One hospital I worked with relocated the supply closet and cut nurse travel time by 50%. Result: better patient care and outcomes.
Here's My Point:
Is the design of your work space impeding the flow of information and knowledge? Is it preventing quality work in a timely fashion? Could you rearrange the furniture or allow employees to reconfigure themselves into Lean work cells as needed to achieve business outcomes? You don't have to work on a factory floor to use a Lean work cell; it can be used anywhere. Isn't it time to rearrange your furniture for maximum productivity and profitability?
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