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The Buzz Around the Lean Software & Systems Conference 2011 (LSSC11)

by Todd Charron on Jun 09, 2011 |

The Lean Software and Systems Consortium conference 2011 was held May 3-6 in Long Beach, California. This year, there seemed to be a strong focus on visualization, leadership, and real world solutions. Here is some feedback from those in attendance.

Hakan Forss posted his thoughts on the conference:

I think the session I enjoyed most was "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wall – Visual Management and Gemba Walks" by Inbar Oren. Inbar talked about what management want to see and the concept of Gemba Walks. The Gemba walks concept is nothing new to me but the presentation really reminded me why and how it can be done in an Agile/Kanban setting. Very well done Inbar.

Many people attending the conference referenced Rodrigo Yoshima's post on Why physical card walls are important?, which highlighted the value of making work as visible as possible:

Jason Little wrote about his learnings:

Leadership Matters...a lot

This sounds obvious, however from my experience most organizations don't have strong enough leaders to take the risk of Lean transformation. Organizational politics and functional silos are extremely difficult to navigate without support from strong leaders with clout.

Organizations are Complex Adaptive Systems

Organizations are too complex to think you can define a process once and stick with it forever. Organizations that can embrace change and understand that people are not linear have a greater chance for success.

Targets are Helpful, Metrics are Not-So-Much Helpful

A quote that stuck out was "once a target becomes a metric it fails to be useful". Trying to figure out black and white metrics in complex adaptive systems (or more plainly stated, in today's software world) is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do.

Go to the GEMBA

The best way to improve your organizational efficiency is to make your processes explicit, monitor the progress and use that data to drive better decisions.

Kaizen takes Discipline

I find that Lean is much more explicit about how to build a Kaizen-focused culture than Agile is.

Lean, and Kanban in particular, specifically talk about using capacity allocation for improvement work.

What's it Called? It Doesn't Matter What it's Called!

"I learned how to think in my own context" This was a statement from Benjamin Mitchell during the "What do we mean by Lean?" panel discussion.

At the end, [Alan Shalloway] said he didn't know what to call that process, it's not really Lean or Agile or Scrum or Kanban, it just seemed to work.

Frode Odegard added his thoughts:

Scaling is still a challenge. Most of the discussion still centers on tools, teams, and tactics instead of organizations, transformation, and behaviors.

There even appears to be active resistance among some against going beyond the development "silo". There also seems to be some confusion and controversy about whether and to what extent Lean as applied to software needs its own terminology.

For me, perhaps the most delightful aspect of the conference was the coverage of topics from adjacent fields such as systems engineering, complexity theory, and risk management. This provided many new ideas for people to think about.

Overall the reaction seemed to be quite positive for both the event and the speakers. Here is a sampling of some of the comments floating around on Twitter during the conference.

Benjamin Mitchell (@benjaminm): Funny that the "water cooler" conversations are stories of failure, whilst most conference presentations are stories of success #lssc11

Nayan Hajratwala (nhajratw): cynefin appears to be taking over the world ... #xp2011 #lssc11

Giuseppe Minervino (giupegiupe): "Why physical card walls are important" reaches 10000 views during #LSSC11. Tks community... http://bit.ly/fejEcH

David J Anderson (agilemanager): Stepping into the land of differentiators momentarily, more Brazilians at #lssc11 than #xp2011 ;-) but heck they can dance!

Rodrigo Yoshima (rodrigoy): "Never seen a company succeed following best practices" #LSSC11 @snowded

Alan Shalloway (alshalloway): Lean is hard to understand because it is both about ppl dynamics & system dynamics. it is not one over the other as in most Agile. #lssc11

Alan Shalloway (alshalloway): biggest value for me @#lssc11 was not anything directly related to lean but rather other systems that help lean

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