What I learned about Kaizen & Agile from Pixar

The past few weeks I have been heavily immersed into Kaizen, Kanban, Agile Project Development and as a result Scrum. I have found it quite interesting but somewhat overwhelming along with a few other things I am doing. I have taxed my learning absorption level, to say the least.

What did I do? I took a little time off and sat back with a good book and a little Jackson Browne(Just like Bach to me). The book; Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground. It was written by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, the pair that wrote The Disney Way, Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company.

It wasn’t long into the book that they discussed stories and development that my mind drifted to agile and scrum comparisons. What they really brought home was the importance of collaboration and building a team. They even discussed the great lengths they go to hire people who are interested in working in a “network” type environment  in solving problems, building and supporting each other. Here is a short excerpt from the book; the definitions of a set of proficiencies by Bill Nelson of Pixar:

    1. Depth – demonstrating mastery in a subject or a principal skill; having the discipline to chase dreams all the way to the finish line.
    2. Breadth – possessing a vast array of experiences and interests having empathy for others; having the ability to explore insights from many different perspectives; and being able to effectively generate new ideas by collaborating with the entire team.
    3. Communications – focusing on the receiver; receiving feedback to ascertain whether the message sent was truly understood. Realizing only the receiver can say, “I understand!”
    4. Collaboration – bringing together the skills(depth, breadth, and communications), ideas, and personality styles of an entire team to achieve a shared vision. Fostering an attitude to say, “Yes, and…”, rather than “No, this is better.”

Collaboration is critical to the process of generating ideas and problems in any organization. When you review the principles of Kaizen and Agile, your ability to succeed really comes down to how good of a team you put together.  Very few times in an initial read of a book, I started reading this for pleasure, have I ever stopped so soon in a book and reread an entire chapter.

The rest of the book proved to be just as valuable and I think the authors did a very nice job of displaying the brilliance and the imagination that is taking place at Pixlar. I encourage you to read the book before you put together your next team. At first, I was going to put a picture of the book with an Amazon link into the blog post. Sounds pretty boring. Let’s figure out how to make Toys.