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Lean Organisations for the Digital Age

| by Ben Linders Follow 29 Followers on Apr 06, 2017. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

Lean IT should help to simplify and improve the way we create value for customers and develop better solutions for tomorrow. Organisations of the future will focus on horizontal product or service streams- and everything else, including experts and managers, is there to enable the front-line to do their work right-first-time-on-time with no hassles.

Daniel T Jones, founder and chairman of the Lean Enterprise Academy in the U.K, spoke about lean as a strategy at the Lean IT Summit 2017. InfoQ is covering this conference with Q&As, summaries and articles.

Technology is not the biggest constraint; the real challenge is changing the social system, argued Jones. According to him we need to build people centric organizations for this age.

Jones stated that gemba (or front-line) is the source of transformation, rather than having experts design systems for how others should work. You have to go to the gemba, help them solve their immediate problems, and show your commitment to support them.

As you do so, leaders learn to see the underlying real problems, that they have often inadvertently created. As lean experts we should set the direction of improvement, and not a plan, argued Jones. Lean experts can help people to see the underlying problems and develop the capabilities needed to solve them.

Lean is not about rolling out "best practices". Rather than just solving today’s problems, we need to look for reusable learning to solve tomorrow’s problems, said Jones. This involves double loop learning.

InfoQ interviewed Daniel T Jones after his talk.

InfoQ: How can we build people centric organizations?

Daniel T Jones: Lean IT should help to simplify and improve the way we create value for customers and how we develop better solutions for tomorrow, rather than dreaming of complex systems that replace human decision making, cost the earth, are inflexible and are never delivered on time.

InfoQ: How does the future look for lean IT?

Jones: Lean IT should be about developing simpler, modular software architectures, that can easily be improved by users. It is also about dispersing IT staff across the organisation to work directly to support front-line teams working directly with end users – rather than sitting in remote offices designing solutions at a distance. If front line teams are given the understanding how to improve their work and systems, they become more knowledgeable contributors to designing next generation systems.

InfoQ: How do ongoing developments in lean IT influence the role of lean experts?

Jones: We are always going to need experts to develop software and systems, but we need to recognise that their role is to support front-line teams and customers – rather than impose solutions on them. Organisations of the future will focus on horizontal product or service streams- and everything else, including experts and managers, is there to enable the front-line to do their work right-first-time-on-time with no hassles.

InfoQ: What advice do you have for organizations that want to start with lean IT?

Jones: Leaders should take a walk, see the frustrations front-line teams struggle with every day, support them in resolving them and help their managers to mentor and coach them to solve tomorrow’s problems. Figure out which managers are willing to begin experiments with co-located IT support and link them in communities of practice across the organisation. Realise lean is not just about cutting costs and getting rid of employees – but about building the capabilities to solve customers problems in new ways. The ultimate challenge is overcoming legacy mind-sets as much as legacy assets.

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