Lean principles are all the rage. Cutting the fat and reducing waste are leading people to affixing ‘lean’ to everything: lean manufacturing, lean process management and recently lean-IT.
Lean principles were originally applied to manufacturing processes and since IT is a process many of these practices apply.
Eliminating waste, what lean calls ‘muda’, is the essence of Lean thinking. Lean highlights seven sources of waste. How ‘muda’ applies to IT are the subject of this post.
1. Overproduction – making things before they are needed is a source of waste. In IT overproduction comes when IT builds solutions or provides capacity that is in excess of the business requirements.
2. Waiting – the time and resources consumed in between major steps in a process. In IT waiting happens in areas like user signoff, requirements definition, testing, and other areas. Waiting comes from multi-tasking that often comes from trying to fully-allocate IT resources.
3. Transporting – the unnecessary movement and handling of work. This happens when you pass work between multiple teams, multiple companies and locations. A lack of clear process, poor coordination tools and weak management raise transporting in IT.
4. Inappropriate Processing – involves resource overkill, also known as ‘gold platting’ solutions. Over-provisioning service levels, taking on extra requirements or building beyond business needs are IT examples of this form of waste.
5. Unnecessary Inventory – in manufacturing the concern is Work-In-Progress (WIP). In IT the resources tied up working on multiple concurrent projects. Remember that active five projects means five investments and no results. Shorting cycle time and increasing throughput reduces the amount of WIP.
6. Unnecessary / Excess Motion — refers to the unnatural acts that people are made to perform in doing their job. In IT excess motion can he thought of the ‘hero’ actions that are common in IT. Whenever you need a hero you are requiring excess motion.
7. Defects – errors are the common focus of improvement disciplines like six-sigma. In IT defect removal concentrates on verification, validation and testing.
Muda matters in IT and every CIO and IT executive should look at these sources of waste in their operations and plans.