Lean and Mean Technology – In addition to IT managers being concerned with retaining talent and becoming more integrated into the management of the enterprise, they must continue to maintain their laser-like focus on running lean. Budgets are not likely to increase substantially in the near term and yet IT organizations will be required to take on an ever-increasing number and complexity of needs. This conundrum will seem daunting but it need not be. There are many IT organizations that are just beginning to adopt tools and methods that have historically been leveraged only in operations and back office:
- Lean Application Development (LAD) – Based heavily on the principles developed at Toyota, LAD is focused on a simple yet challenging concept: stop doing things that don’t add value for the customer. In IT this means stop building in features that are not needed, stop writing extensive business requirements documents that, undoubtedly, will be changed. Instead, build requirements as they are needed or just in time. Stop task switching and build small amounts of rapidly deployable code that can meet the requirements of testing. While there are other concepts within LAD, this provides the basics.
- Lean IT Operations – This is the more intuitive application of Lean within IT. By reducing wasted efforts, it makes sense that more can be done with less. Simply reducing the number of steps needed for a software change or to stand-up a server can lead to significant improvement in the amount of time required to complete these tasks. And even more importantly, these improvements can be done in hours or days leading to rapid improvement in productivity, quality and responsiveness.
- Lean Project Management (LPM) – One of the most controversial elements of becoming Lean is in the project management world. Decades of thought leadership about the need for command and control have created significant resistance to the adoption of LPM. And rightfully so. As most projects, even with the command and control structure, do not meet the needs of the customer in the end. They take too long, cost too much, or don’t deliver the results that were identified in the business case.
To truly become Lean and transform the culture of IT organizations it is more important that IT managers recognize that more control will not succeed in improving the outcomes and responsiveness of the projects. In the end, each project is undertaken at the request of a customer and the customer is the only one who can define the activities in any project as value-added.
IT leaders must begin to shift the thinking among their project management teams that success is defined by adding the maximum value at the least cost. It may mean less control and more focus on orchestrating the realization of value derived from the project with minimum delays, errors, hand offs, decision points, work in process (unfinished tasks) or over processing (meetings, emails, etc that do not directly add value to the end product).
There is no question that IT organizations will continue to be faced with unprecedented change and demands on resources. But IT managers will no longer have any wiggle room when it comes to responding quickly, delivering maximum value with minimum cost and resources, while also becoming more prevalent in the overall strategy of the business. In order to accomplish all of this, the thinking that once made IT organizations and their managers successful will no longer be enough.
Ron Wince is co-founder, president and CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions, a management consulting firm specializing in business performance improvement. Prior to founding Guidon, Ron led an internal consulting group for Bank One and later at JP Morgan Chase. His pioneering work in the migration of Lean Six Sigma, robust performance management and execution speed in service industry companies is the precursor to Guidon. Ron is a highly sought after speaker and advisor and has been published or quoted in Fortune, Forbes.com, Patient Safety and Quality, and Healthcare Executive, among others.