Friday, June 8, 2007

Kaizen meets Agile

I recently sat in on my first ever kaizen meeting (I am learning Agile by observation). The purpose of the meeting was to review the week, a post-mortem of sorts to discuss issues in an open, constructive way. One meeting directive is "Blame has no place in kaizen". This meeting was strikingly different from other meetings I attend.

- Step 1, each team member wrote an action or issue from the week on a postIt note (different colors help), and placed on a whiteboard which was split into Monday to Friday (left to right), happy to sad (top to bottom). This was frenetic as they had only 5 mins, and were dodging each other.
- Step 2, each day was reviewed, both the good and the bad. As this was occuring, members were transfering issues to index cards (a staple of Agile processes). Interestingly, one of the sad postIt notes was "spectator in kaizen meeting", referring to me.
- Step 3, index cards were laid out on table (including some old ones from previous week), a postIt affixed to side of each card, and team members voted which issue they wanted to discuss, having 5 votes each to distribute among cards. Very democratic.
- Step 4, index cards we discussed in detail in voting order until meeting's end (1.5 hours allocated in total). Cards we given to members who would work on issues the following week.

It was really quite amazing. My observations of the meeting were:-
1) Interactive, due to physical components (posting & voting)
2) Successes were acknowledged and celebrated
3) Opportunity to vent
4) Lo-tech (pen & paper)
5) Productive
6) Fun

Fun? Yes, fun. A fun post-mortem. But aren't post-mortems supposed to be serious affairs? Well, this meeting was serious, and productive, and fun.


Ramakant Patil said...
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Ramakant Patil said...

Wow! That seems to be an innovative way of implementing a Kaizen environment. Out of curiosity, the issues or events or questions that were put on the discussion board, were they all related to work or did they address the issues like the work environment or food in the cafeteria or the health care for their family members. I've heard about Kaizen and Lean meetings were they discuss about the issues related to their work, which totaly aligns with the idea of continual improvement. But, I was wondering if inclusion of personal elements like family matters or issues regarding children or similar issues would help in the developing a stronger bond among the employees, which I am sure will help in more efficient operation.

Jon Williams said...

I did wrote a later post about using Kaizen in a management meeting, which is slightly to your question:-

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Small but important detail - these meetings are called Retrospectives and not post-mortem. A post-mortem happens after the project is over/dead when there is no chance to improve. An Agile Retrospective happens during the life of the project when there is a chance to get better. Otherwise this sounds like an innovative approach to the retrospective. I will be taking a few ideas out of this to help my clients.

Mark Levison
Agile Pain Relief Consulting

Jon Williams said...

Agreed, this is a retrospective. I think post-mortem better applies to operational events not associated with projects, agile or otherwise. In my head, post-mortem = retrospective = learning experience . And as a CTO, no project is ever dead :-)