As James Goebel and I were having dinner on the River Walk in downtown San Antonio he told a story of how Menlo Innovations was visited by representatives of a manufacturing firm that has defined and achieved true “Lean Thinking.”
After touring Menlo, hearing the Menlo story, and seeing how Menlo operates they told James, “You are applying our philosophy to software development better than we are.”
I was, of course, delighted to hear the story. I considered it a tremendous endorsement of our work. I used to run “Deming Nights” at Menlo over a decade ago. We would watch “Deming Videos,” and encourage folks to read books on lean manufacturing and the Toyota Way. It was interesting to us, already being very agile, to see how manufacturing had independently learned many of these techniques years before we did.
Now, after hearing James’ story, I’ve come to rethink the idea of telling people to study lean. I may no longer encourage people adopting Agile to read Deming or Liker.
Because if the best practitioner of lean manufacturing principles on the planet cannot become as Agile as my company, then I have to assume you cannot get to where we are by studying lean manufacturing principles and rigorously applying them. Seriously, if the Menlo visitors could not do it, then NOBODY CAN.
So what should you study?
If you want to be agile, then study agile. Don’t study lean, you won’t get here that way.
Instead of reading lean, read Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck.
Then do it.