Agile ≠ Lean

Let’s start on the highway.

Hey, we have built a new superfast highway. Admittedly, it is only single-lane. But in every other aspect it is premium quality. The first car to show up on the road has a maximum speed of 70 km/h. It’s no problem here to drive at that speed. The travel time is predictable and minimal, given the capacity of the car and the road.

The problem is the variations and they come in many flavors.

There are three kinds of variations that always exists in enterprises:

  1. The number of orders varies with time.
  2. The capacity of our resources varies with time.
  3. Every order is special. Everyone wants to make their own customized order.
Kingman’s formula: E(Wq​)≈(ρ/(1−ρ)​)*((ca2​+cs2​​)/2)* τ

Three approaches

Resource, Flow, and Agility. Here are my three definitions:

  • Resource utilization: When we use all our resources to the maximum for what they are best at.
  • Flow: We minimize time from idea to cash without decreasing quality and despite variation within limits.
  • Agility: Ability to adapt to unexpected changes and wisely influencing the new situation to our advantage.
  • Resource utilization — as many cars on the road as possible moving at their top speeds.
  • Flow — the cars that actually are on the road, reaching their destinations as quickly as possible.
  • Agility — ability to adapt if something unforeseen happens, such as a rock rolling out onto the road.

Best context — where does each approach fit the purpose?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.
  • The number of orders varies.
  • The capacity of our resources varies.
  • Every order is customized.

Decisions — when and based on what?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Autonomy — how dependent are we on others?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Diversity — heterogeneity or homogeneity?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Quality — how good?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Standards — how we do it here?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Purpose — why do we exist?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Planning — what, how frequent, and for whom?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.
  • order frequency
  • types of orders,
  • and resource capacity.

Workflow — flow of the value?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Focus — where to put our attention?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Control and follow up — are we doing ok?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Options — plan B?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Providers — how to collaborate with them?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Process improvement — how can we do better?

Left to right: Flow, Resource, and Agility.

Bringing it all together — we need a mix of all three

We could go on and on. For example, how is recruitment managed in these three approaches? Procurement? Training? Modern organizations need a combination of resource-utilization optimization, flow optimization, and agility.

Three approaches

Let’s revisit the definitions one more time.

  • Resource utilization: Using all resources to the maximum for what they are best at.
  • Flow: Minimizing time from idea to cash without decreasing quality and despite variation.
  • Agility: Ability to adapt to unexpected changes and wisely influencing the new situation to our advantage.

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Staffan Nöteberg

Staffan Nöteberg

🌱 Twenty Years of Agile Coaching and Leadership • Monotasking and Pomodoro books (700.000 copies sold)