Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lean manufacturing vs Scrum - motion waste (part 4)

This is a continuation of the previous post in this series.

In short, the number one goal in lean manufacturing is eliminating waste. In this series I'm looking at the seven categories of waste identified in lean manufacturing, how these translate to software development, and how scrum can help eliminate that waste. This is the fourth post in the series.

In this post I want to focus on motion. This is one of the seven categories of waste targeted by lean manufacturing.

In manufacturing motion refers to motion of people or machines, but not work product (work product that moves around is transportation). For example, if a person on an assembly line needs to get up and walk 10 steps to get a specific tool every now and then this is motion waste. Motion waste isn't so much about the wasted effort of moving, but more about the wasted time. Because while you're moving to get that tool, you're not adding value to the product. Motion also provides opportunity for work disruption that wouldn't exist if you avoided the motion in the first place.

Similarly, in software development, motion waste is when people are moving around between places where they might add value rather than actually adding value. This could be travelling between your office and a client site, walking from a meeting room to your desk, walking to a colleague's office to ask a question, etc. I also believe virtual motion is potentially a big waste that is often neglected. If you are busy working on an IDE on your computer and you need to remote desktop to a separate server from time to time, this can also be considered motion as the action of switching between environments doesn't add value, it wastes time, and it provides an opportunity for disruption.

How does this tie back to scrum?

Scrum isn't really very prescriptive about motion, but it does put a lot of emphasis on team work and collaboration, a lack of which is often a leading cause of motion waste. It is advisable as far as possible to put a team in the same room to remove physical barriers to teamwork and collaboration and to also put the team's scrum board in the same room.

Scrum also provides a fixed framework of events (scrum planning, scrum review, scrum retrospective, and daily scrum) that helps to eliminate excessive meetings, another major cause of motion. The scrum master's role also becomes very important in eliminating waste. The scrum master is responsible for a lot of things that can directly affect, and therefore minimize, motion waste. The scrum master ensures that scrum events take place, the location and timing of which can have a great impact on motion waste. The scrum master also has responsibility for removing impediments and physical or virtual impediments in the tools and workspace can often necessitate motion.

In summary, scrum can help eliminate wastes that can be classified as motion because:
  1. Scrum events provide a fixed structure that helps eliminate unnecessary meetings that often cause motion.
  2. Teamwork emphasis, which should in practice be extended to putting team members, as far as possible, in the same physical space.
  3. Emphasis on identifying and removing impediments that often cause motion waste.

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