An industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, Product Portfolio Management, Scrum and Agile Design, Alan Salloway helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas. He is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives
In a past podcast (Related Podcast and Transcription: Shalloway on Agile), I asked Alan about the relationship between Lean and Agile.
Joe: You always talk about Lean – Agile, how does Lean and Agile play? Is one the umbrella over the other or are they equal partners in your mind?
Alan: Well, OK. You caught me, Joe. I think part of this is marketing. I actually think Lean is the big mantra. I think Lean is about respecting people, having a systems approach, working at how it became a business, improve the structure, folks for delivery and improving the team organization. So I would say yeah, Lean is actually the umbrella for it all and we put Lean-Agile into it, because Agile has some other things that I think are actually implied in Lean but aren’t necessarily as explicit in Lean as they are in Agile, which is this cross-functional team notion. Steve Denning talks about, in his Radical Management book with how will you endorse, about cross-functional teams being able to create or delight customers.
Steve Denning management is about creating teams that can delight customers. So Radical Management is really saying it’s radical because you’re saying, well, we’re going to have teams self-organized. We’re going to direct them from a management point of view. But to manage by directing, I mean we’re going to play in the right direction but then how they get there is up to them.
I think this is the thing that’s often missing in the Agile community. You can create, I mean there’s no question, Scrum is a great process, it really is and the timing works out for us. Scrum is a great framework for creating a cross-functional team, or excuse me if you have a cross-functional team; Scrum is a great framework for getting that team to work together well.
I’ve actually never denied that. I’ve always said it. That objective probably has trained us much or more than anybody, but maybe one or two other companies out there and we’re still very active in the Scum training world. But what we suggest is Scrum is fabulous if you have a cross-functional team to use it to self-organizing and to deliver value to the customer. But what’s missing is how you really manage multiple teams across each other, what that means is how do you do product portfolio management, how do you decide really where the value is across all the teams.
The way Scrum is set up is if you have a value of the effort to return where a person getting lots of value in the first few releases and then it stars failing up. If all you’re doing, the worst thing to the customer, that customer is going to keep saying, “Give me more, give me more, give me more,” because to him, that tailing value, even though you’re not getting as much a return every time is very valuable. it’s valuable like him. To another customer, there might be something of much greater value that can actually be detected by business drivers.
You need the business driver to know where to point the guns, so to speak, and then you need the team, the self-organizing, cross-functional teams to do the job well, and that’s where radical management play.
You have these different pieces of, how do I create great teams to delight customers, how do I create a business to make sure the teams are working on the right thing, how do I get management so the teams can coordinate and work together well. In my mind, so I’m just good at one of those and not good at the others, and my company is really about transforming. We’re all working all sized organizations; we work for companies really small, on up to the thousands, but we know how to actually work with companies in the hundreds of thousands. That ends up being where we spend a lot of our time.
That’s where you need something bigger than just the Agile team?based approach, and that’s why again we call Lean-Agile to kind of present the idea of this overreaching bigger view.
I’ve heard some people say, “Agile is what you do in teams, and Lean is what you do at the enterprise,” and that’s wrong. You’re talking about a whole systemic approach, and when you work with systems, you cannot decompose them.
In other words, even though I’m talking about business and management and team, you don’t really have different parts of systems. If you decompose the system, it’s a teaser, those teasers are not the system, it’s like when they are put together. They’d be like say taking an airplane, let’s take a 747, break it down into pieces and then see how each of the individual pieces fly. Well, none of them fly on their own, but you put them together, and it works.
You can’t just say, “Well, this does this, and this piece does that and that piece does that.”
It’s the way they interact with each other is what makes it work.
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