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Agile, Lean or Both?

Lean and Agile process methodologies have traditionally been used for two distinct environments: Manufacturing and software development. Yet over the past 25 years the two have slowly begun to merge. 

Dan Woods, editor at CITO Research said in a Forbes article, What surprises me is that most advanced practitioners of Agile now use more vocabulary from Lean manufacturing than from Agile. In essence, as a practical matter, good ideas from Agile are being absorbed into a new approach to software development that is more Lean than anything else. Someone else can name this phenomenon, but Lean and Agile are merging.”

According to Keith Taylor, Jabil IT Director, the order of the Lean and Agile process adoption is important: “Once an organization proves successful with Lean, they are in a very good place to leverage Agile methods that aggressively embrace change.”

Additionally, Taylor says, “Agile methods, particularly Scrum, are a comprehensive response to the business challenges inherent in today’s global markets for high quality and performance with customer configured products. Agile is a continual readiness to change for the better: Ideas, processes and cultures.”

“When we have projects that will require more creativity and innovation with a keen ability to adapt to changes – and the customer is willing to be directly involved in iterative bi-weekly team reviews – then Agile is the clear choice for project execution,” says Taylor.

Lean is simply about eliminating waste in a project, like unused resources, down time and defects. To create an efficient and transparent organization, Jabil’s IT organization has embraced a Lean/Agile culture where underutilized resources are moved to meet the needs of the customers.

 

Team Implementation

To facilitate the success of Lean/Agile Jabil’s IT organization introduced the notion of workcells, an organizational construct that has long been used by Jabil’s business divisions to provide dedicated customer-facing teams.

A workcell is a small, self-managed team made up of people with clearly defined roles. Workcell sizing is based on the project, customer value recognition and aligning demand with capacity. Workcells improve the quality, speed and cost of the project by identifying and eliminating waste.

Feedback is encouraged for continuous improvement and change is built into the process. Small iterative build events allow for changes in requirements.

Producing a quality product that meets a customer’s expectations is the key to customer satisfaction. Meeting those needs requires speed, agility and processes that support this effort. Lean practices combined with Agile methods work well in this type of dynamically changing environment.

Has your company embraced Lean/Agile methodologies? Have you seen an improvement in customer satisfaction? Please provide comments, we’d like to hear your story.

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