The one thing we really do well

At work we had some visitors last week. They did a workshop in parallel to guiding a project team through a week of change. I was fortunate to be part of the “peripheral” and observe.

The project content and deliverable at weeks end was not the main thing as you may expect from a project. At least not for me. No, the result of the week was actually summed up during a presentation in the middle. Joe Justice of Wikispeed said:

“The thing we really do well at team wikispeed is change.”

This is amazing or awesome as Joe would say because they are building a car. And we all know what the change cycle for cars is, not weeks or months – no it’s years. When Joe and Tim Myers explained that they are able to change any part of their design within a week, it sounded incredible. How are they able to do that?

3 premises are core to this.

  1. Visibility
  2. Modularity
  3. Trust

Now, one has to understand that Joe and Tim come from a background of lean management involving Kanban, Agile, eXtreme Programming and transported this to eXtreme Manufacturing. You can read up on these terms in your own time. The core idea is that teams

  • work together in close proximity
  • have specific problems to solve rather than a target to achieve
  • do this within a short period of time (1 to 2 weeks usually)
  • talk often but briefly and avoid meetings
  • review their achievements and upcoming problems weekly / biweekly
  • have full visibility of what everybody is up to now, what’s been achieved, and what’s coming up

This exactly what is described in Scrum and KanBan. The challenge in building something physical is a bit different and that’s why my organisation engaged Joe and Tim.

At the end my core learning was (like often) a challenge to my assumptions. If you really want to make changes within a week or two you can. You need to be prepared what is means. My concerns include

  • Some of the current processes might not be adequately equipped to do so. They are too stiff and formal (in terms of bureaucracy).
  • Some of the IP (intellectual property) protection measures or compliance requirements may hinder rapid change.

And I’m not yet sure what the consequences might be. I’m sure it is possible, if this is what we want to do. Today the one thing we are really doing well is building world class radio solutions for public safety and utilities.

And that’s a question for you >>> What is it that you are really doing well?

2 comments on “The one thing we really do well

  1. […] a timeframe for goals. Not any time frame but short 1 – 2 week goals very much like in agile development approaches. “Fail – learn and fail again and this time more intelligently” comes […]

  2. […] you consider Kanban boards. Kanban works on the premise we have multiple things we can work on, some have dependencies, others are […]

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