Kaizen strategy for the Scrum Master role

А Kaizen strategy is important for any Agile organization and every Scrum Master should be well aware of these principles.

In this article, we present a Kaizen strategy suitable for modern Agile product companies. The document is best suited for the Scrum Master role which is traditional for many IT organizations and teams today. Reference: Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples, https://pm.mba/posts/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-examples/

Planning. The timing of operations is planned to create a flow of high quality and affordable products.

This is the most important. We need to know what we want to achieve, when, and how. We need to clarify at the outset who we work with and who directly influences decisions and processes. We want to achieve a great goal, but it is difficult for us to understand at the beginning how exactly. We need to divide the goal into small sub-goals and rank them in order of importance and interdependence (so that we don’t start ‘from the middle’). Everyone in the team must first: know what the competencies of different people are, second: to know what the common goal is, and to be engaged and interested in participating in the process. Reference: 20 Agile Kaizen keys to workplace improvement, https://www.libraryofmu.org/20-agile-kaizen-keys-to-workplace-improvement/

They, together with their direct superiors, will discuss (and agree with!) The action plan. At this point, the plan may be quite ‘rough’ and not so detailed, but it’s important to have at least something to start with. The more detailed, the better, but at the moment this should not be extremely important and hinder the development of the project. Even in situations, it would be completely unnecessary (given how much is known about the product and the way it works, which is yet to be clarified …)

Management style with commitment and participation. Work with all people to engage their minds and hearts, both in the work and in their hands.

I’m not sure this principle is exactly the second most important, but I definitely think it’s in the top 3! Management style is very important for the development of the whole project, the overall success, and the ‘work’ of the team. At this point I put everything, starting from the qualification of the people/leaders, those who will manage the project (and whether they are the right people), to their personal qualities / soft skills – very important, their experience, and whether they have any established working principle. . At this stage, it is important to understand that a project does not depend only on one person or group of people, but on the participation and interest of all participants, as well as the external suppliers mentioned in the next section. Their qualifications, interest, and ideas are also crucial to success. Reference: What is Kaizen methodology, https://medfd.org/what-is-kaizen-methodology/

Partnerships between suppliers. Work with suppliers, making them part of an ever-improving chain instead of struggling with them.

Suppliers are outsiders who deliver services or products for the implementation of the project. But suppliers are also the people in the core team (one developer delivers the result of his work to another developer who uses it to accomplish/complete his task). There are interdependence and all participants – both internal to the project and external are equally important. They all work for a common cause.

Creating interconnected cells, where flow and withdrawal are the main agenda. We can interpret that your related processes must be in order and not hindered. The results are important throughout the day and at the end of the day.

Yes, there is a connection between things. It is important to clarify here, in the beginning, that if a ring in the chain breaks, it may take time for things to return to normal. Of course, a process must be created as close to reality as possible and so that obstacles between the various steps do not constantly arise. This part is something very complicated, especially when things are new to everyone. Extremely many factors must be taken into account – external and internal – before a process is good and effective and productive. Processes are something that can be constantly improved, something that is constantly evolving. It may have taken years for Toyota workers and management to mechanize and ‘arrange’ everything to be an example, but I’m sure it largely depends on their culture and way of working. It is no coincidence that all these methods and principles come from there.

Zero monitoring. Build systems that avoid the need for constant human monitoring. Instead, create a team that works to maintain and improve your technology.

Here again, I’m not sure how ‘up’ or ‘down’ in the hierarchy this principle is. In my opinion, the idea of ​​zero monitoring is / should be a general rule and aspiration of every project. Monitoring is something that can be reduced or even completely avoided if the right actors, goals, processes, and technologies are in place. It is clear that this saves a lot of resources – people, money, time, time in developing the right monitoring methods, and establishing real indicators to help assess the whole process. I think it is important to mention that the lack or minimization of monitoring does not necessarily become the goal of the project. Of course, this is a positive thing, but there are situations in which it is still necessary. Also – who will monitor and on what / whom (people on processes, people on robots or technology and equipment, senior management to employees down the hierarchy or developers in the small Scrum team to each other?). I would not say that all these types of monitoring should necessarily be avoided. Reference: Transparency in Scrum teams and Agile organizations, https://scrumtime.org/transparency-in-scrum-teams-and-agile-organizations/

Teamwork. Focus on teamwork to involve everyone in enthusiastic improvements.

Teamwork is closely linked to a partnership between suppliers and the creation of interconnected cells (both in processes and between people). As I mentioned above, it is very important to be perceived as part of the team, and not to go and decide everything yourself. Also be interested, purposeful, and enthusiastic about what he does. To be curious and interested in the general development and to participate in solving the problems that have arisen. Personally, I think it’s important, to be honest, and able to both criticize and take criticism from others on the team (the idea of ​​transparency in Scrum). Reference: The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples, https://agileprogramming.org/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-explained-examples/

Support and training for employees. Training employees to work at a higher level so that they can increase the value they add to the work.

It is very important that none of the team members (including management at different levels) have the attitude or expectation that everyone knows everything and knows how to do their job. It is important for the company to be able to invest in its staff – training, courses, social arrangements. It is also important that they are timely – when the need arises, not delayed and waiting – so they risk losing their employees. People in a team can have different qualifications, different culture, nationality. Attention must be paid to investing in staff, staff must also talk openly about problems when they arise so that timely decisions can be made (often course planning directly hinders the project, as employees will use the time to take a course, and not to do what is planned for the day). But it is also important to realize that staff qualification adds value to the product – perhaps not after the 2nd day, but in the future. It should be noted that the training and courses should be tailored to the needs of the company and the specific purpose, as well as to enable the employee to subsequently use what he has learned. Thus, the employee will be able to be as complete as possible and contribute to the work in the team.

Reference: Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization,

Technology. Use and training of more complex technologies and adaptation of teams to them.

It has a lot to do with the front point – training and education. What is new here, however, is that there is always room for something better. Technology is something that is constantly evolving. If a person graduated in medicine 20 years ago and works for a medical device company of some kind, he is unlikely to be particularly attractive to the company, and perhaps even quite difficult to find a job if he simply relies on his knowledge from before. 20 years. People and technology must be constantly evolving and in sync so that they are as effective and desirable as possible in the labor market. As for adaptation, yes, it takes time, but it’s not something that would stop large companies from using newer and newer technologies. They will save them a lot of money for maintenance and production – that’s why they are better technologies.

Reducing the time for changing dies and machines for more flexible work. (Logically, in processes that do not involve machines and tools, you can focus on reducing technological time for your operations)

Related to the front point. New technologies predispose to a reduction in technological time. Of course, provided that the team has fully adapted to the technology – in the beginning, it is difficult and quite different from participant to participant and from team to team.

Disciplined, rhythmic work. Synchronized systems where all parts work together.

I’m inclined to admit that this point might have been much higher in the hierarchy, but that’s how I got attached here. Because of the ‘rhythm’. If all of the above conditions are met – if there is a plan if people know that they work in a team, if everything is fine with the qualification and people have room for expression and development, what is left for them is to comply with the rhythm of work. They already know how to use the new technology, now they just have to get better at it and show comparable and positive results with each ‘cycle’ of the process (iteration). And do it disciplined. In general, the whole idea of ​​discipline in the team is very important. And here the thought of monitoring creeps in if the monitoring is expressed in a boss who monitors how you are doing. Not because things have to happen that way and sound like someone is going to scold you, but simply because discipline helps to keep the processes efficient and achieve the common goal.

Reference: Build an Agile Kaizen strategy and methodology with 20 keys to workplace improvement, https://projectmanagers.edublogs.org/2020/09/12/kaizen-strategy-and-methodology-keys-workplace-improvement/

Continuous improvement of the workplace. Creating improvement as a way of life, continuous improvement of work, and a better workplace.

The idea of ​​striving to make things better and better. None of the above will make sense if people are constantly crammed into one place and use their old habits.

Reduced inventory and lead time. Coping overproduction and reducing costs and deadlines.

Things have to be balanced, yes. The time to complete the task should be consistent with the set of tools and instruments to be used and their qualities. One cannot expect a person to do his job well and on time if the program he has to work with is slow and constantly crashing. There should also not be too much ‘supporting’ documentation – things that one is expected to update in step with the work to document progress. In fact, this documentation should not be interesting and sought after by anyone. Things need to be automated and intuitive. I put it halfway between striving to improve the workplace and working and finding defects. These documents are a way to convey information to the team – something that someone else on the team will use (IF necessary), a way to inform others about something because you simply have no other way to inform them (the right tools are missing).

Defects. Defect management, including defective parts and connections. Monitor, control, and manage your defects. Look for the causes and try to avoid them.

Directly related to workplace improvement and maintenance. Some defects cannot be predicted. Some cannot even be improved or maintained. The team must decide together how important it is to remove the defect and how and when. It is important to take the time to examine the defects and to monitor their occurrence – both in the machines themselves and with the work processes. Things need to be improved in a timely manner so that the team can achieve its goal in the agreed time and with the agreed quality.

Support. Maintenance of machines by people who work with them, not by external specialists.

This allows for constant adjustment and minimum downtime. Interpret this as the idea that you should maintain your own systems and products, not an outside company. You know your products and technology best.
In what was written above, I misinterpreted the support, maybe, but I just don’t know what to call it. The maintenance should not be excessive but tailored to the needs. There should be no support because there are no tools to solve the problem. The problem must be solved by raising the missing funds (even if this means a radical change in the means to perform the work). And yes, of course, it is better for the support to be done by people who know and WORK with the product – it saves a lot of money 🙂 But also because they know best what the problem is.

Efficiency. Balancing financial problems with other areas that indirectly affect costs.

Under efficiency, the first thing that comes to mind is efficiency in performing tasks in the team. Strive for everyone to be better and more efficient. It depends on all the things we have discussed so far – processes, people, qualifications, technologies … In your interpretation, it is at a slightly higher level, maybe that at one point or another it comes down to finances. Will we hire the right people and how many people, will we invest in them by sending them to courses and training, will we strive to update our technologies, will we have time to discuss problems, or will we just have to make the number of car seats for the day? But doesn’t all this depend on planning – the very first point? If it is planned that you need money for this, the problems and losses will be much less.

Waste. Constantly identifying and eliminating things that either do not add value or even destroy it.

These can be processes, ways of working, even roles or positions. Anything that doesn’t help you should be removed from your job.
I experience it in my work every day. It is quite difficult to get people to start using something new, to stop vicious practices and old habits. To believe that even if it is difficult in the beginning, if we help each other, we will achieve better results than if we do nothing. People are so engrossed in everyday life and monotony that they just want ‘the day to go by’ and tomorrow to be the same. But it’s pretty hard to tell a boss that it really bothers you more than it helps. The culture of the institution and the openness of the people in the workplace are different. And people’s reactions will sometimes be scary and you even risk your own work. This is a problem everywhere, or maybe in a lot of places … That people at the lower levels are ‘afraid’, and those at the top just tread and impose power and tell you what to do (instead of finding resources to improve the workplace and processes to avoid such discussions).

Clean and tidy. Everywhere and all the time.

Clean up debris. And organize your way of working and … yourself. Clarity and determination. This is the only way to find problems and solve them more easily.

Conservation. Saving resources to avoid waste, both for the company and for society and the environment.

Things should not be done for more than the required time, and should not become more expensive. Things should not be better than required (related to Taguchi’s methods). There has to be a threshold – when things are bad, and when they are so good that they are actually too good for someone to judge that they are better. The real judgment of these things saves resources.

Cross-function work. Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change departments to gain experience in other areas.

In my opinion, this comes at a very late stage in the development of an organization. There is not always a need or even an opportunity for this thing. Of course, it would be interesting for everyone to understand everything and broaden their horizons by seeing how things are done elsewhere, but this should not hinder the normal functioning of the team in which the person is employed. Perhaps it is largely related to training and is ‘only if there are money and time’ for it.

Technology and competitive engineering. Understanding and using methods such as Concurrent Engineering and Taguchi methods.
To achieve this, the organization must have gone through many phases of trial and error and continuous improvement of processes. In my opinion, a lot depends on the nature of the work and the final product. Of course, parallel engineering is just a method – it may be fully applicable to many companies, but in my opinion, if you do not set and emphasize the basic principles of teamwork and discipline and interest in the work and the goal, it may come in handy late stage.

Published by Anton Radev

Front-End Web Developer

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