Monday, August 10, 2009

Lean on me

I've been reading up a lot on the roots of lean manufactoring. It's become in vogue to apply these principles to the practices of software development and while I applaud that, I think it's important that one understands the genesis of an idea, especially if that idea has lived through several generations and has been translated from one very different arena (in this case, from automobile manufacturing in the 50s, 60s, and 70s as part of the Toyota Production System) to another (envisioning, developing, deploying and managing software in the 21st century). Most folks that have a cursory understanding of lean tell me it's about the reduction of waste - throwing away all of those things that do not directly add value to your endeavor. Queues, inventory, task lists, etc. are all bad because they are things that are sitting around and not adding value. 'Just in Time' production - that's the key. That's all certainly core to the 'what', but unless you dig into Taiichi Ohno's teachings, you miss the 'how'. Central to the 'how' is the role of 'management'. To Ohno, a good manager is a master craftsman, mentor, and teacher. Managing is Teaching. That is the real power of this philosophy. If you believe management is about anything else, then you've already lost. You may go, grasshopper.

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