Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Tendency for Lean Experts to Distrust Technology

My thoughts on Why can't we use technology to accelerate Lean adoption across my company?

I think biggest objection is how often and badly technology efforts fail. This makes a knee jerk reaction against jumping to technology fairly wise.

I think the second reason is technology expertise is often not found in the same people that have lean expertise (it can be it just isn't super common). Combined that with number 1 and the fact that making technology projects successful requires great system (rare) or can be made more likely with a deep understanding of technology and management systems (but I just said they often don't have the tech expertise) so again a reason to shy away from tech.

If a good lean consultant saw the organization had great system for making technology projects, countermeasures etc. successful they would support such efforts even if they were weak on tech. I'll also say most lean consultants aren't great. They don't understand lots of stuff about respect for people, management systems, customer focus, gemba etc.. Due to fear I think many that don't have strong lean understanding will shy away from technology.

I think technology solutions can be great. There is nothing wrong with them, when conditions are right. Conditions are almost never even decent - forget right. Technology projects and efforts are much more likely to be messed up due to bad systems and lack of expertise.

Technology solutions can have huge impacts - there are many good things possible with technology. The problem is so often technology wielded inside organizations (human systems) fail for many reasons very closely tied to bad management practices. The better the management practices the less likely technology will backfire in my opinion. The stronger the management system the more likely technology projects will be managed sensible, tested at the gemba, adjusted by people with a strong understanding of the gemba, project managed by people with an understanding of lean thinking practices (deliver working code fast etc.)...

The fear of technology projects is those reasons and more. Things like the same problem with brain-dead implementations shoving down a horribly inflexible ERP program or shoving down a 10% across the board budget cut and many other such efforts. Technology efforts really are no different than others but there are some difficulty in the problems of technology often being more difficult for people to see.

Technology also is often seen as this wonderful simple quick fix by executives - letting them avoid the gemba and just put hope in a essentially magic bullet solution.

The whole effort to make problems visible is much less likely to be done well around technology (which has to do with some issues with the domain but also with the lack of technology expertise [especially software development] of management and decision makers). Lots of the efforts in lean software development and agile have very good practices for technology efforts.

Related: Deming and Software Development - Involve IT Staff in Business Process Improvement - Mistake Proofing Deployment of Software Code

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