Last September I presented this topic in the 2012 Agile Brazil conference in Sao Paulo. The reception was great and finally I had the opportunity to translate it to english so it can be viewed by a larger audience. [More]

Posted by: alissonvale
Posted on: 10/29/2012 at 7:39 AM
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The snow ball effect: that is the metaphor that I was thinking about when I have prepared the talk "Making the Work Visible" for the Lean Software and System Conference occurred last week in Atlanta. The first idea turns around visualization as a catalyst for obtaining system understanding. To visualize an specific characteristic of your process, you need to think about it in a structured way, connecting this visualization to underline properties of your system. The exercise of doing that continuously generates understanding, which is what we are looking for at the end. On the other hand, something interesting happens when you raise your level of system understanding. New ideas emerge. The need to visualize different perspectives of the work appears. The snow ball effect takes place and a new focus on how the system is designed can be established. Three Design Focuses After a small history and introduction, I started to describe what became the three main focuses and discoveries we have when designing our system:#1 - Thinking in ecosystem rather than linear processesBy doing that, we amplified the directions we could follow to create understanding. We have connected different perceptions regarding the process. Themes like collaboration, personal involvement, engineering artifacts, coordination, achievements and others were considered once they are part of the whole ecosystem. Linear processes are still there, but not alone anymore.#2 - Contextualizing visual information rather than using traditional reportsInformation is part of the understanding process. You need information to get understanding. The usual way to get information is by querying your electronic data. While this is still a useful and important approach, when designing our system, we found valuable to connect the information about the work with the work itself. So, for instance, as you are seeing the current work in progress, you are also analyzing average wip allocation regarding the nature of work or the target market.#3 - Organizing the system considering interconnected perspectivesThis is probably the most important aspect of our design. Connecting different perspectives to model the environment help you to comprehend how things interact with each other. Visualizing the ecosystem in one direction enable you to create the necessary interconnections to see the system as a cohesive unit, amplifying your understanding about the whole. Here is our model based on perspectives: Figure 1: The system organized in perspectives The system visualization expand itself from the employee to the customer, revealing several perspectives in the middle: A personal perspective offers perception of involvement for each employee that participates on the system; A team perspective gathers individual contribution around common goals and results; A systemic perspective offers an end-to-end visualization of flow, besides information to handle the work as a whole in different systemic situations like demand, in progress and releasing. A customer perspective allows you to extract the flow of work related to specific client or market targets which aggregates several clients. Filtering Perspectives Some perspectives are orthogonal to the main perspectives described earlier. They represent an specific filter applied to the whole system, so you can isolate the work with different characteristics, like the market target, for example, or the continuous improvement actions, as I have demonstrated on the presentation. We can expand that to isolate whatever characteristic of the system we think relevant to isolate. The main point here is that you can see the whole with an specific and meaningfull filter applied to it. Figure 2: Orthogonal filtering based on meaningful properties of the work Making things visible You can make more things than you can imagine visible. Even abstract concepts like collaboration can be materialized if you have records of current/recent interactions between people doing the work. In essence I've presented 7 (seven) different dimmensions of visibility. Each one of them somehow connected to the main perspectives and affected by orthogonal filtering as well. Here they are: the nature of the work; the workflow; collaboration; time; information; engineering traceability; movements; On the following slides you can get some clues about how all these dimensions are make explicit. Making the Work Visible View more presentations from alissonvale However, a more precise perception will come when you watch our electronic environment visualization in action, which are not available in the slides. As the presentation was recorded in video by the InfoQ portal and also in a desktop recording tool, we can wait for the release of these media to get the full picture about what is behind all these concepts. While this not happen, I let you some screen shots to help you on visualizing what I meant by "Making the Work Visible". perspective of an individual team perspective system perspective customer perspective time perspective system performance perspective card swarming view business activities expanded WIP A big "Thank You" for the kind audience in Atlanta and also for the several good feedbacks that I had after the presentation.

Posted by: alissonvale
Posted on: 4/25/2010 at 1:59 PM
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The day was April, 24th, 2010. The place a restaurant at the Lenoux Mall in Atlanta. The event, an special speaker lunch attended by a meaningful representation of the Lean/Kanban community. On this space/time reference, I had the most important experience of my professional life ever: It was officially announced that I have won one of the inaugural Brickell Key Awards for my recent work in applying Lean/Kanban techniques to design a technical/operational environment regarding the service-oriented business that I own in Brazil, a company called Phidelis. The award itself should be enough to remove the floor below me. But, in addition, it was given to me in a special event illuminated by a range of people which had heavy participation to form my professional values and technical skills. People whose books are in my shelf since 2003 when I have started my journey to the Agile/Lean way of work. I'm talking about an audience formed by, between others, David Anderson, Mary/Tom Poppendieck, Jean Tabaka, Joshua Kerievsky, Allan Shalloway and Don Reinertsen. An audience formed by all the new friends that I made in this community in recent years as well, with a special mention to David Anderson and Siraj Sirajuddin. Both gave me confidence to keep going considering the though challenge of communicate complex ideas in english, a language that I'm not fully proficient yet.   I have been asked to say some words and I've used the opportunity to offer the award to the Brazilian Agile Community, which have been helping me all this years, not just in the process of learning, but also to establish good partnership and friendship necessary to follow the path of change that we believe is going to create evolution in the way we do our work. Thanks a lot for everyone who was directly or indirectly related to this. I'm honored and excited to work even more in spreading the Agile/Lean/Kanban word.     Read the Official Announcement here:  http://atlanta2010.leanssc.org/2010/04/2010-brickell-key-awards-announced/

Posted by: alissonvale
Posted on: 4/24/2010 at 6:29 PM
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That was the title of my presentation last Thursday at Agiles 2009, 2nd Latin-American conference on Agile Development Methodologies. I have designed this presentation trying to summarize what the Kanban community is trying to spread recently as a new way to manage knowledge work. Download the slides here to follow this post about the presentationBy the way, knowledge work was the first topic of the presentation. The initial discussion was about how software development fits with knowledge work (slide #1) and how such activities can be associated with a huge quantity of variations in scenarios and contexts (slides #3 to #6). Understanding the nature of knowledge work is the key to not get trap in trying to translate manufacturing tools and techniques unappropriately.Context Matters Don Reinertsen's quote about best practices and the importance of the right context to consider them as "best" warn us to be carefull when choosing best practices just because thay are supposed to be "the best" (slide #7). Context is relevant, so Kanban allows you to design processes that fit to the context, instead of manipulating the context to fit a specific process (slide #9). The word "process" generates fear on the agile community. In fact, there is a reason to put this word on the right side of the manifesto. But, there is no reason to think that no process is the goal. Kanban establishes a new balance on the relationship between people and processes, establishing a way to empower people to design their own processes. Hence, Kanban is a collaborative exercise for process design and offers thinking and action tools to empower people to evolve processes by themselves (slide #11). The process is owned by people, which can connect Lean with Agile in a incredible way.And there is more... Kanban is also a MindsetSo many case studies around the world describe a kind of transformation process emerging once you absorb the "paradigm of flow". A Kanban implementation holds only four essential tools. But there is a whole new mindset out there. The WipLimitedSociety is agreggating people and content regarding something bigger than the four essential tools. A whole new body of knowledge is emerging right now. The "Yes We Kanban" logo is the symbol of this mindset (slide #13).It's not so easy to structure this mindset in a way that people can understand. I give my try, anyway. So, my way to describe the Kanban Mindset is by showing patterns, tools and the type of thinking spread by the people who is talking about and applying such ideas.  The result was a pyramidal structure like the one that I introduce at slide #14: Thinking Tools, Process Design Patterns, Capability Measurements, Collaboration and Team Model Patterns and A Culture of Continuous Improvement. Thinking Tools(#slides 16 a 20)Thinking tools guide practitioners when they are applying Kanban. System Thinking help coaches and team members to understand why they are doing what they are doing. See your work environment as a system can make you conscious about causality and effects of actions. This type of thinking, despite of being very abstract, is very powerfull. A single intervention can cause a huge influence on the system as whole. Once System Thinking can be viewed as the starting point, Lean Thinking is the basis. Almost every operational concern is guided by the need to identify value appropriately and make it flows throught the system, improving the process continuously and eliminating waste progressively. Theory of Constraints is another element on this thinking process. Once you have flow in your process, you are going to start to see bottlenecks that make it slow in certain part of your system. The Theory of Constraints establishes that your system is so strong as its bigger bottleneck. By using knowledge of this theory you can dramatically leverage the throughtput of the system or, at least, you can get understanding about what are the right investments to do in your system to get higher or better results.Queueing Theory is another key thinking tool in the Kanban mindset. What lies behind knowledge work is the unpredictable nature of arrival times and task durations (slide #19). Queues are always there and the understanding of its behaviour is in the toolbox of every Kanban thinker.Finally, there is the Real Option theory that has been discussed lately. It establishes the basis for risk analysis by raising the importance of managing choices and defer commitments to generate options.Process Design Tools and PatternsThe idea that processes can be designed using tools and patterns instead of procedures and documentation forms is mind blowing. In slide #21, I delineate four essential tools and some other patterns for process design using Kanban. This list is just an extract of what I have been listening as solutions to common problems used by practioners and discussed by the community. Here they are:Essential ToolsValue Stream MappingVisual ManagementPull System & Single Piece FlowLimited WIPPatternsBuffers & Queue LimitsClasses of ServiceLeveling WorkTwo tiered Systems (Expand/Collapse)Swimlanes/ExpeditingTriggersPriority FiltersPerpetual Multivote Obviously, this is not the full list of patterns that people are applying to their Kanban implementation. What matters here is the idea that patterns can help a team to solve very specific problems when they are trying to design their processes. You can try to extract the basic meaning of each pattern by looking at the slides #21 to #40. You can also leave a comment on this post if you need more info about one or other.I just want to leave a few words about the last two (Priority Filters and Perpetual Multivote). They were initially proposed by Corey Ladas as patterns for designing the process of select work to inject into the system. I think the perpetual multivote system can be particularly interesting to select work from a continuous improvement backlog queue.  The description of those can be found here: http://leansoftwareengineering.com/2008/08/19/priority-filter/http://leansoftwareengineering.com/2008/09/29/perpetual-multivote/Collaboration and Team Model Patterns(slides #41 to #46)It's difficult to realize how collaboration patterns emerge on Kanban projects without actually doing Kanban. The first thing to notice is about the ownership of process rules. The best Kanban teams are using all these tools to master the process. They, in fact, own the process usually helped by a coach with a System Thinking or Lean Thinking bias. What people call "swarming" is the most interesting pattern, in my opinion. Usually happens when people have to look at the process board and decide what to do next. The Kanban limits avoid people from inject more work into the system, so they have to find a way to help pushing the work in progress out. That's the moment when Collaboration patterns start to emerge. Teamlets, feature teams, and other collaboration structures start to be notice daily.Capability Measurements(slides #47 to #53)I think this quote from John Seddon illustrate why we have to be carefull with measurement in our systems: "Managing with functional measures always causes suboptimization, because parts achieve their ends at the expense of the whole."Kanban gives to the team the ability to measure capacity and use that measure to bargain or manage its commitments with customers and stakeholders. Capacity can be known using time measurements (lead/cycle time) or volume measurements (throughput). It's common for Kanban teams and coaches to use Cumulative Flow Diagrams to analyze throughput and find bottlenecks and other systemic issues on processes. A Continuous Improvement CultureFinally the main goal of a Kanban implementation: establish a Kaizen culture. A culture of continuous evolution of the system. What Kanban team have been reporting so far is the constant appeareance of "kaizen events" as the time goes on. In slide #53, I mention three action tools to establish this culture: * doing Operations Reviews regularly; * enabling Continuous Improvement (CI) Actions by reserving capacity in the system to inject CI work items continuously;* expanding oportunities for improvements removing bottlenecks, eliminating waste and reducing variability.

Posted by: alisson.vale
Posted on: 10/11/2009 at 3:25 PM
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Last saturday I was at Agile Brazil 2009 conference. It was a great one-day conference with a lot of influential brazilian Agile thought leaders and practitioners talking about Agile. Interesting how Rio de Janeiro offers an audience with high mature levels of knowledge to discuss and argue about software development. It's definitely a great place to host national and international conferences about Agile.It's also interesting to watch Lean and Kanban become so controversial in the Agile world. I can classify the Agile Communitty impressions about the "Flow Paradigm" in four categories:1) People that believe in this paradigm as the only alternative for their projects but still don't know how to start;2) People that believe in this paradigm as a possible alternative for very specific projects (like the ones dealing with support, bugs and intense change request).3) People that is looking very carefully and avoiding any oficial statement until fully understand and know how it works in practice (I've noticed several thought leaders in this situation)4) People that believe we are moving backwards with this approach.Anyway, in my opinion, everyone should look very carefully to this new approach. After I've started to use it, I really can't see myself using the timebox approach again, even for new product development. The leverage in subordinate the system to its demonstrated capacity is really meaningfull. But I have to admit this is very risky for teams with low maturity in Agile practices.My presentation: System Leverage in Agile ProjectsThe whole point of my presentation was to describe how changing your way of thinking can create real opportunities to leverage Agile projects (or even any other type of project).I've started describing the difference between System Thinking (the new way of thinking) and Analytical Thinking (the old way). The main message was about System Thinking as a model to get understanding of why things work the way they do, in opposition to the Analytical model that gets knowledge about how things work. Use System Thinking to solve problems changes dramatically the potential to create leverage in software projects.Some of the points of leverage that I have described in the presentation were: - Focus on the purpose of the system;- Demand Management is so important as Demand Planning;- Forget functional measures and focus on measure the capability of the system (e.g,cycle time) or the conditions of the system (e.g, failure demand vs value demand).- Establish flow end-to-end (from the customer to the customer)- Limit WIP- Leadership, Team Work and generalist people are elements that improve flow; - Every waste activity points to the design of your process or the design of your product;- Refactor your process is so important as refactor your code is.You can download the presentation here:For portuguese readersFor english readers

Posted by: alisson.vale
Posted on: 6/29/2009 at 11:32 AM
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Last week I was in Miami attending the Lean and Kanban conference. This post contains my personal view about the conference and about some hot topics that gain my attention while I was there.   Between Sessions on the 2nd day Structuring the community  The announcement of the new Lean Software and Systems Consortium makes me think about how important is to take this community to a next level in terms of organization. I have this perception that the Lean community is fragmented today in a couple of different trends. It would be cool if this Consortium could be a real representation of the whole Lean community. But I really don´t know if it is going to be possible considering how we are structured today. Anyway, I'm an enthusiastic about this idea and I'm ready to contribute somehow to make this happen.PeopleAmazing how this community is surrounded by brilliant people that really knows about what they are talking. I am still impressed with the quality of the attendees. Many of them were there to teach, not only learn. I really don't know what was better: the talks or the conversation between them. The residual learning generated by the conference came from a flat transference of knowledge, not a top-down (speakers->audience) one. The presentations were open to conversation, people asked questions during the talks, not only after them. Many times, people asked for the microphone to clarify positions and thoughts, not just for questions. The open space at the end just make this more evident.  Preparing board for the Open Space  Enlightening PeopleDavid Anderson brought powerfull ideas on his talks. David has this ability to makes me have shining and sudden ideas when he talks or writes. It's not about trying to teach how to walk the path, it's more about direct you to a possible path and let you decide how to walk it. His recipe for success is becoming more powerfull as the community is getting more experience with Lean and its principles. WIP reduction, quality focus, demand versus throughput and prioritazation are already "a spread message" as we saw in most of the study cases. However, the new "reduce variability" message is still out of the people focus. Maybe we are going to see progress on this issue in study cases at the next conference.An important message that I've got from David was to avoid the temptation to establish any type of "Lean Framework". Let's try to not copy the way that how other industries are applying Lean and focus on principles. If the message is strong (as it is in Lean), people are going to be able to find the right way to make it work in their own situations.Jean Tabaka was another key personality of this conference. In her presentation, she was able to transform all the materialism that surrounds Lean with numbers, curves, graphs, and other technical stuff in something organic, system oriented. I like pretty much of the continous learning approach suggested by her. Actually, I have written about this on my article for the proceedings book. Profound knowledge about your own system, mostly formed by the business, the organization culture and the people is the most powerfull way to get leverage for growing. Jean has also an incredible leadership nature. She is always leading all conversations or activities that she is envolved. She also gives to the audience a real bonus by showing us how to facilitate an Open Space and how to conduce a wonderfull retrospective. Amazing the way that she works.Corey Ladas was a big surprise for me. Definetely one of the most open-minded and intellectualized members of the community nowadays. You can watch him talk for hours without getting bored. I've got a copy of his Scrumban book and I have to say that the title can distract potential readers to buy it. This book is an amazing description about Lean applied to software development. A really practical view that is pretty rare to find in other Lean publications in the software area. The Scrumban technique is there, but is just a small part of a whole rich content about Lean.Study-Case TalksSeveral presentations described different ways that Kanban and Lean were introduced in a lot of scenarios. It's interesting to see how powerfull solutions are built when you don't prescribe the how ("practices and methods"), but provide the why ("values and principles"). This community is empowering people around the world to discover the best way to design processes and to influence culture organization with simple instructions like create limits to WIP and make value flows. I really like the way that Eric Willeke and Chris Shinkle prepare their material. Eric told us his story in a very unusual and interesting way. How Scrum has failed in absorb the company scenario and how kanban embraced this scenario and empowered people to make the work done. Chris Shinkle got my attention by the creative approach comparing his kanban adoption to the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition. This insight is awesome not just for Kanban and Lean implementations, but for whatever initiative that intents to spread knowledge for people in organizations.     New Room Layout just before the Open Space session  My Presentation I presented at the second day just before lunch. The main challenge for me was try to describe our model, which has its own peculiar details, with the limitations of my english-as-second-language issue. But the massive feedback that I've collected after the presentation makes me believe that this was not an issue at all.I have started my presentation describing our model which is based on a mutual trust relationship with our customers. This relationship emerges from the observance of four aggreements defined as "quick problem solving", "support for operations", "improvements for sustainability" and "new value". Actually, they are all perceptions of value by the customer (it needs and pays for all of them), but for us, three of them are perceptions of waste ("new value" is not). So they are conflicting perceptions of Value. In fact, it is difficult to establish priority between the Value generated by this activities. It's totally contextual. So we try to create balance between them. Giving to the customer nothing more than they need, at the time they need.Classes of Services for us are the representation of this aggreements in our process. Units of work are derived from these classes of services. The Units of work are represented by cards that flows between different stages in an eletronic board that holds a set of stages distributed in 3 big areas: Demand Management, WIP Management and Delivery Management.So, I have talked a little about each area describing some interesting issues like a prioritization filter for Demand Management, the collaboration model in WIP Management and Release per Feature and Traceability in Delivery Management.The presentation has finished with a demo of this eletronic board and other open source tools that compose an integrated environment for technical operations.You can download my slides hereYou can read people tweeting during my presentation hereYou can read reviews of each presentation here[Update] David Anderson wrote some nice words about my presentation here[Update] Some discussion in Agile Executive about my presentation hereRetrospective results at the end.  So, finally, I would like to say thank you for everyone that was there and that I have a chance to talk with. I see you guys on the next conference. 

Posted by: alisson.vale
Posted on: 5/10/2009 at 8:40 AM
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