Kaizen Enabler

I was watching a Youtube video from Mary Poppendiek which was recorded at Google TechTalks 2008 about The role of leadership in software development. Yes, pretty old video but very interesting. There was a heap of information and ideas flowing through my mind. Suddenly a quote from Workspace Management book written by Taiichi Ohno known as Father of Toyta Production System caught my eyes and here it is:

When creating Standard Work, it will be difficult to establish a standard if you are trying to achieve “the best way.” This is a big mistake. Document exactly what you are doing now. If you make it better than now, it is kaizen. If not, and you establish the best possible way, the motivation for kaizen will be gone.

That is why one way of motivating people to do kaizen is to create a poor standard. But don’t make it too bad. Without some standard, you can’t say “We made it better” because there is nothing to compare it to, so you must create a standard for comparison. Take that standard, and if the work is not easy to perform, give many suggestions and do kaizen.

At first glance it sounds strange, I personally tend to make everything perfect. So dragging stories long and doing things over and over again to make it perfect. Yes and then I don’t dare to change it anymore. So I usually say this joke to my colleagues:

If you put all your knowledge into your job and something goes wrong then you’re not able to fix it anymore.

Yes, that’s actually true. But it even goes beyond that.

How often do you see those nice & slick designs that every detail is perfectly described and all solutions and requirements are just in a right place? Then you shake your head and appreciate that excellence? Or maybe you designed one yourself?

That’s perfect right? Then if it’s perfect why things still goes wrong along the way? Why we still end up with some legacy piece of software and as a result we replace it with another excellent yet to be legacy software?

So what I try to learn from those two paragraphs is very simple. You don’t need the very best solution indeed. You need the optimum solution. The one that’s just right fit to the current requirement, but you’re pretty sure there are a lot of ideas and suggestions to improve it. And that’s what I call Kaizen Enabler.

That perfect mindset is very destructive. If you think the solution you provided is just the best one then you don’t have any motivation to change it anymore and perhaps you’ll try to justify that in any possible way.

So, next time if I looked for a perfect solution, please remind me of Taiichi Ohno quote, and I’ll be very thankful.