Category Archives: Lean

On Lean Principles according to Womack and Jones

One of the best introductions to Lean Thinking is a the book ‘Lean Thinking‘ by Womack and Jones.

What follows is a summary of the book I used for my own purposes and hopefully is useful for you as well.  I’ve added some counter points from other authors as well.

According to Womack and Jones there are five steps:

  1. Identify the value for each product
  2. Identify the Value Stream
  3.  Create flow without interruptions
  4. Let the customer or consumer pull value from the produce
  5. Pursue Perfection

On Muda – is waste – anything that does not create value and includes waiting in queues, mistake rectification, over production and movement.

On Lean – this should be not been seen as a job destroyer.  It should create work – more valued work.

Value can only be defined by the customer.  It’s not created by engineers with complex ideas.  It needs a dialogue with the customer to supply the needs – this could be abstract – did the smart phone customer say they needed the iPhone?

Visualising the value stream will expose the MUDA.  You should be able to extend this to suppliers to flow the entire value stream from without your own organisation

When waste is removed – make the system flow!  That means work with smaller batches.  This will generate faster feedback.  (Simulations are available like paper plane making to illustrate this).  Jim Benson however suggests start with flow and eliminate the waste from there.

Furthermore to get flow, ignore traditional boundaries of jobs, careers and functions.  These are impediments to flow.  Keep the product in sight at all times (early delivery).  All workflows and tools are up for scrutiny.

Once flow is established time to complete work can come down from months to days, days to hours.  David Anderson did this with a team working for Microsoft.  The team was based in India.  There were many problems in reliability in estimates and quality of the work and delivery of that work.  He (and colleague Dragos Dumitriu) used Kanban to achieve this.

This leads to the ability to Pull.  You can do the work and make the product when the customer asks for it.  For example DELL Computer makes PCs to order.  Inventory is waste and for DELL large inventory is massive waste due to obsolescence.  Toyota is capable of making cars to order because of the value stream includes the supplier.  Toyota can build a car on order in one week.  If there is no PULL then there is still waste or MUDA.

Now with everything visible, flowing and pulling, transparency is a natural by product and therefore it’s much easier to discover other ways to create value.  When employees are involved in the entire loop, then employee satisfaction goes up – less need to financial reward systems (a dysfunction maybe)

A transition should not be costly.  Going from large batches to smaller batches for example.  If it’s expensive then you’ve yet to understand lean thinking.

And on society – Womack and Jones also say “Stagnation has also led to a frenzy of cost costing in the business world, which removes the incentive for employees to make any positive contribution to their firms and swells the unemployment ranks.”  Lean Thinking is the way to turn this mindset around.

And be aware or beware – Lean Thinking means layers of management get permanently stripped away.  However this does not preclude the idea of succession plans, rewards for experience and higher pay.  You lose the title not the experience.  You will find yourself becoming a coach.

A transformation can take years.  There are several examples in the book with Toyota and Pratt & Whitney being the most famous.


Agile Adria Conference Mind Map Collection

Mind maps from some sessions at Agile Adria 2015 held at Terme Tuhelj just outside of Zagreb in Croatia.  They are rough but still good memory joggers.  More may flow from these depending on time.


Joshua Arnold – Cost of Delay


Vasco Duarte – Product Owner Toolkit

Tom Gilb - Power to the Programmers

Tom Gilb – Power to the Programmers

Miroslav Oračić - Restructuring at Hrvatska Pošta

Miroslav Oračić – Restructuring at Hrvatska Pošta

Miroslav Oračić - Restructuring at Hrvatska Pošta

Mary Poppendeick – The Scaling Dilemma Part 1


Mary Poppendeick – The Scaling Dilemma Part 2


Mary Poppendeick – The Scaling Dilemma Part 3


Mary Poppendeick – The Scaling Dilemma Part 4


Mary Poppendeick – The Scaling Dilemma Part 5

Stephen Parry - Closing Keynote: Staying on Purpose

Stephen Parry – Closing Keynote: Staying on Purpose

They never replied part 2 – They always report too late

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post about news reports about waste debacles in the WA State Government.  Now in yesterdays West Australian (see picture below, How The Cracks Appeared) we find out that in July 2014 that they realised $6 million had been wasted on the paperless environment project for Fiona Stanley hospital.  We also find in the same article that there are more endemic problems in the system.

FSH Report Too Late

Many saw this first hand.  We saw it coming. Some tried to raise the alarm but upper management would not hear them.  They were valid concerns.  Some decided to leave out of honour.  Some stayed silent but knew of the issues but felt it unsafe for career and more basic survival needs to stay silent.

Time and time again we see these incidents whereby a post mortem reveals the truth only after the waste has been realised.  Like most post mortems no real lessons are learnt.  I hear in a news report that the premier Colin Barnett thinks that Fiona Stanley Hospital is running well.  Talk about sweeping dirt under the carpet, the typical old style politician more concerned for political survival.

F Scott Fitzgerald Mindset

Courtesy Bold Mover and Bernd Shiffer

We can get so blinkered to our own point of view that we shut ourselves out to other ideas (I wrote last year about this).  The challenge is to train ourselves to accept diversity of opinion.  It can be done.  For example try dissent cards from David Marquet or Ritual Dissent from Cognitive Edge. Dissent can be done with respect. Even if not done with respect, take notice and look to repair the grievance as well.

Overall adoption of Lean mindsets is the first starting point.  Here’s an article from last year about this and good be a nice easy start.  This is Lean by Niklas Modig is also a good start.  There is much more but it could be overwhelming to start with all of it.

One request of the State Government.  Do not spend that $25 million mentioned in this article on working out how to do it better.  It’s just a repeat of same disastrous mindsets.  It can be done much, much cheaper. Just start small with one idea.  The founder of Zambrero had the right idea with the One Disease initiative.

In memory to recently departed former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, I’d like to repeat his quote as it’s apt in life when things appear to be hard. “Life wasn’t meant to be easy, but take courage child — it can be glorious.” it’s originally from Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw. Fraser was seen as a divisive figure but I hope he’d also embrace this mindset.

They never replied

I came across this article during the week about the WA State Government’s plans to introduce leaner IT expenditure. I was encouraged by the thought of this but hopefully they don’t do another Shared Services debacle. Creating a $25 million fund to study this sounds scary though and I’m thinking this sounds a bit exorbitant and not off to a good start to spend so much on something we all know can be done better anyway.

It reminded me of two emails I’ve sent in the last 18 months that never received a reply. I wanted to anonymous but now I’ll let the cat out of the bag and reproduce them here. The first one was to the Premier, Colin Barnett, and was Cced to WA News and the Labor Party. The second one was a response to the blockers to small & medium businesses (SMEs) being allowed to work freely and more cheaply with government departments.  The blocker is called the Common Use Agreement or CUA. The email was sent to members of parliament in my area.

First One

Dear Premier,

At the risk of being victimized as a whistleblower, I’m concerned after recently working in a contract position in WA Health about the level of waste in production of value for the people of Western Australia.

The world is moving ahead in terms of Agile and Lean Enterprises. This movement involves focussing on the things which produce value rather than things that don’t. In layman’s terms, don’t produce an artefact (e.g. document) if it doesn’t produce value.

That value is best directed at the coalface. For example, 4 weeks directed at producing a document which is not read is best directed to delivering the product through coding effort.

There are pockets of good work being done – but they need more support. It needs executive backing. You are the highest executive in the state!

I’d like to keep my name anonymous for now to avoid being targeted – but happy to discuss this further privately.

I’m motivated to help the government deliver services quicker with less waste and get to the massive backlog of other items that these savings can be directed to.

Kind Regards,

Nick Zdunic

Second One


I live in Dianella and you guys are my local members of parliament so I’m contacting you about this issue I have.

In order to do work for government departments I need to be on the CUA which is quite an onerous process which I’ve been through in the past and do not want to do again.

I have an opportunity that may materialise and they say a CUA is required. I could approach someone with a CUA but I feel this would just add unacceptable cost.

Mostly the bigger companies get on to this or if you are small (e.g. one person) and you know someone you can get on (I know someone who is in this situation). It doesn’t seem fair.

This makes it difficult for small business to do work for the government and deliver better value for money. Actually my business is about making the business of software project delivery more efficient and deliver better value – it’s called Agile and Lean.

The UK Govt is making it easier for small business. They want to achieve 30% reduction in IT expenditure by making sure the most valuable things are delivered. They want small business to have easier access to doing work. SMEs can use to be involved.

BTW, Agile has been mandated as the way to go in the UK. They started three or four years ago and have created a hugely successful website. This link is a little outdated but shows they achieved results very quickly. In 2014 books are being written about this, such as Lean Enterprise which covers

With the large amount of debt, budget overruns and poor quality we see, it’s now well past time to progress to better ways of doing work and creating better value. I suggest first steps to mandate Lean and Agile and increase SME involvement.

Please feel free to be in touch to discuss further.

Kind Regards,

Nick Zdunić
About Agile

Best Posts for 2014

Reflecting back on this past year of blogging I’d thought I’d summarize the best posts of the year.  Some have been controversial and some have garnered a lot of interest.  I find the act of blogging helps me think through mental models.  They may be wrong and putting them up for scrutiny helps correct them or reinforce those models if mostly correct.

There was some 80 posts created this year.  Some of them are long at 2000 words or more and take a few hours to create.  Getting started on those can be difficult but then satisfying in the end.

The Most Popular

My review of L.David Marquet’s book Turn the Ship Around was the most popular mainly because my review was heartfelt.  The book really connected with me and the author also tweeted it and refers others to it for a summary.  My series on Personal Kanban was quite popular as well.


My Favourites

Again, my review of Turn the Ship Around is a favourite. My review of a Lean Enterprise presentation by Barry O’Reilly and Gary O’Brien was more controversial but still earned a like from Barry O’Reilly.

The Controversial Ones

The review of Lean Enterprise got at least one visceral response.  I also wrote about my feeling of dysfunctional teams after seeing the Hangover Picture constantly posted on LinkedIn.  I feel this got criticized for the wrong reasons as those criticisms ignored the feeling’s of myself and others and negated them by saying that those feeling were not valid.  This is in fact poor leadership and disregards the role of dissent in correcting incorrect behaviours.  It reminds me of my policy on listening, in my Policies section, which I feel many people struggle with.

The Unloved Ones

I really enjoyed interviewing Tadhg McCarthy of Adapt By Design.  Culture eats strategy for breakfast as stated by Peter Drucker.  This interview should have received more exposure.

Honourable Mentions

There are some more reviews in the Reviews section of my blog.  Reviews of Slack by Tom DeMarco and Scrum Product Ownership by Robert Galen deserve a mention.  My blog also paid more emphasis of the human side of work.  This article at the beginning of the year is one my my personal best, admitting that we all need to be better.

Some articles on improving work practices were included this year.  I quite liked this one on the role of the Business Analyst in the Agile Team.  Being prepared to fail and recognizing that this is a valuable thing was touched on in this article on my experience with Test Driven Development.

Looking forward to a new year of blogging in 2015.

All the Best – Nick

Agile Journey Index Assessments now Available

My company, About Agile, is now offering Agile Assessments using the Agile Journey Index.  If you’re interested in starting your journey or just improving along the journey this is a great way to start and About Agile can help you along the road as well.

More information is available at the Agile Assessments page on the About Agile website.

Just Start It – Teaching the kids of today to become the startup leaders of tomorrow

I want to tell you all about a fantastic educational program that is running in Western Australia called Just Start It.  It teaches young people about lean startup by actually do it.

They learn to take an idea and bring it to market, pivoting to correct any wrong assumptions along the way from feedback they gain for their real products from real customers.

This year was the first year that the program ran with 11 schools taking part and some fantastic entries being created like the Beyond Bullying and Numbox applications.

Next year, Program Leader, Lainey Wesier is looking to take the program further and introduce it to more kids next year.  You know in the future we can’t rely on a generation of job dependents, we want our kids to be creating the opportunities of tomorrow in the classroom.  What a great life experience and a great way to kickstart life!  This can only be motivational 🙂  They build something and build important life skills along the way.

But Lainey, her team and our next generation can’t do this by themselves.  They need help also in the form of dollars.  Yes this sort of thing just doesn’t happen out of free will – there is a lot of that already been given out.  Just Start It have a crowd funding campaign underway and they are looking for your help.  Visit the crowd funding site and give what you can in an investment for the future, a future that will see your sponsorship deliver benefits in so many ways for our next generation and also for yourself.

Just Start It – Yes Lets make it happen!

Visit the site to find out more and hopefully become a sponsor.