Poppendiecks on Process Control


Published on

Mary and Tom Poppendieck were my guests on the Business901 Podcast, Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks. Our conversation also spurred several thoughts that I expressed in a recent post, Time Based Thinking limits Lean Sales and Marketing. This is a transcription of the podcast.

Published in: Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Poppendiecks on Process Control

  1. 1. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Process Control Thoughts Guests were Mary and Tom Poppendieck Related Podcast: Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  2. 2. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsMary Poppendieck has been in the Information Technologyindustry for over thirty years. She has managed solutions forcompanies in several disciplines,including supply-chain management,manufacturing systems, and digitalmedia. As a seasoned leader in bothoperations and new-productdevelopment, she brings a practical,customer-focused approach tosoftware-development problems.Tom Poppendieck is an enterpriseanalyst and architect, and an agileprocess mentor. He focuses on identifying real business value andenabling product teams to realize that value. Tom specializes inunderstanding customer processes and in effective collaborationof customer, development and support specialists to maximizedevelopment efficiency, system flexibility, and business value.Mary and Tom Poppendieck are experts at reframing yoursoftware development process in the perspective of Leanprinciples. Mary and Tom have pioneered the application of LeanThinking to software development and documented theirprinciples in three books.Mary and Tom’s Books:Leading Lean Software Development: Results Are not the PointLean Software Development: An Agile ToolkitImplementing Lean Software Development: From Concept toCash Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  3. 3. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Transcription of PodcastJoe Dager: Welcome everyone! This is Joe Dager, the host ofthe Business901 podcast.With me today is Mary and Tom Poppendieck. They have been inthe IT industry for over 30 years. They have managed solutionsfor companies in many disciplines, including supply-chainmanagement, manufacturing systems, and digital media.Seasoned leaders in both operations and new-productdevelopment, they bring a practical customer focus approach tosoftware-development problems. Popular writers, authors ofseveral books, and speaking at many different conferences, theycontinue to offer a fresh perspective on project management.They were one of the first to attach Lean thinking to software. Fora history lesson, can you tell me how that came about?Mary Poppendieck: I was working in a manufacturing plantdoing video tapes. I worked for 3M for about 20 years andsomewhere along the line, I became IT Manager in themanufacturing plant.We had very serious competition from Japan. We had to dosomething different. So, we looked at what was going on inJapan -- this was the early 80s -- and discovered that they weredoing this crazy thing called Just-In-Time. Now, everybody knewthat wasnt a very good way to do anything, but thats what theywere doing, and they were really beating us on price, on quality.So we thought, we really needed to try something and, for lack ofbetter ideas, we tried to do Just In Time in our plants. It workedspectacularly. Because of that, I came to appreciate the conceptsof Lean, spending a large amount of my time in both product andsoftware development. I took the concepts that I learned in Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  4. 4. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsmanufacturing and applied them into, first of all, softwaredevelopment, and then product development, in general.Joe: I recently attended the Lean Software and SystemConference where I heard you speak. Your topic was, “FeedbackControl to Improve the Process of Developing Software Systems.The words "feedback" and "continuous" seemed to be a verydominant part of the conversation. Can you expand on that andhow the two inter -related?Mary: Feedback systems in general, because as I said I was aprocess control engineer before I went into the manufacturingplant as IT Manager.Feedback loops, for example, the feedback looped the controls,cruise control on a car that is a constant monitoring of the speed,compared against the speed that youre at, and adjust.Now if you dont do that every second or two, your car is going tobe able to get out of control really fast. The only way to keep thecontrols going in a nice; even speed is to have the continuousfeedback loop.In software development as it turns out, if you really want tounderstand how your software is doing, in what customers want,and how what youre doing is being received, especially in therapid business climate of these days, the thing to do is to figureout if you can deploy your software continuously or very rapidly,get feedback, determine how to modify whatever it is you aredoing so that you constantly are adjusting your software to meetthe things that customers are looking for, and the changes inyour domain.Joe: I find it quite interesting that you look at the delivery by ateam as no longer an iterative cycle, but one based on flow. Isthat the influence of Kanban over Scrum or maybe you better tellme what the influence is, OK? Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  5. 5. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsMary: Even iterations are a flow when it comes right down to it.If you develop software in two-week iterations and actuallydeliver it every two weeks to customers, thats as much a flow...thats almost continuous.In fact, when I think of continuous delivery, I think of daily orpossible twice a week, or weekly. If you look at the kind ofdelivery that Facebook does, its once a week with small chunksin the middle of the week.Gmail for example, is delivered twice a week. Chrome is deployedevery day. Those kinds of very rapid deployments, you find insideof software as a service, where theyre websites, or you find themsometimes inside of the enterprises.The idea of iteration has been, how about; we develop softwareand get it ready to deploy every couple weeks. Well, if you juststop thinking about being ready to deploy and say what would ittake to actually deploy it. Just get it out there and start gettingthe value from it and getting the feedback from it now, you cando that in two-week iterations. You can do that with a Kanbansystem; it doesnt matter.The optimum thing is how rapidly do we deploy our softwarerather than how rapidly do we get little chunks of it done.Tom Poppendieck: The primary thing that we are advocating isnot to think of software development as coding and testing. R tothink of it as figuring out what is worth doing, whats going todelight the customer, doing it, making sure its working well,getting it in service to the customer, and getting feedback fromthe customer.The really important metric is how fast you can get feedback fromthe customer about the actual, deliverable application that youare creating. That is beyond the realm of most people who are Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  6. 6. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsthinking about software all by itself. It gets toward the devox onone end, and it gets toward the design thinking on the front end.When were thinking about flow, were thinking about rapidlygetting feedback from your best design ideas all the way fromproduction.So, either a two-week iteration or a continuous flow like Kanbancan be rapid, say a couple of weeks to a couple of hours,compared to the very common approach of having dozens of two-week iterations before you get any feedback from actualproduction.Mary: Ive actually seen Kanban be used just to develop thesoftware. Still they dont deploy it until, I dont know, a couple ofmonths apart, or four months apart, or six months apart, or evena year. So it doesnt matter what process youre using, if you’renot deploying and getting feedback. Youre not getting theinformation you need to know how the software is doing.Joe: I think both answers are great because that really was mynext question, is who will give you that continuous feedback.What youre saying is you should deploy as often as you can addvalue for that feedback from the customer.Mary: Yes.Joe: If you can do that, you will be gaining continuous feedback.Continuous may mean for one life cycle, two months. Anotherone may be every day.Mary: Indeed, I dont know about the few months’ part. When Ithink of continuous, I actually describe it as a week or less.Joe: Data is still king though, isnt it? I mean, we have to deploysomething. We have to be able to measure it though. Do youagree with that or can we wing it? Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  7. 7. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsMary: Lets pretend youre Amazon. Youre deploying a newservice, just a small part of your system, and you deploy it whenyou are ready. That small thing is meant to dosomething -- attract a few more customers, run a test to see ifyou supply extra information, on checkouts you might makecustomers happier, or add a few more options to the review, orsomething like that.Theres no sense in waiting. Why not try that and see how itgoes? In fact, you could be running good old marketing style ABexperiments all the time, if you can deploy frequently. If youdont deploy except for every month or two, theres no way to berunning experiments to see whether this various, this approach orthat approach, is, in fact, a better one.Tom: You have to think that your goal is learning. L what thebest solution for one aspect or another of delighting the customerwill require. If you learn that your hypothesis is wrong, why takethat code out. If you learn your hypothesis is correct, youcontinue along that direction or go onto your next understandingof what will delight your customer.Learning is the key thing, not generating code. Generating code ismerely a means. Its not the purpose.Joe: This also means with the user or with the customer. Its notan "internal customer" that were deploying this too.Mary: We tend to see software as a product and in fact, a largeamount of the companies we work with are companies thatactually make software -intensive products. You can think ofanything from a medical device with a lot of software in it, to awebsite which allows people to buy stuff, to something like socialmedia website, or Twitter, or anything like that.Those are all software products which people use all the time. Itsthe customers who are using that software- intensive product Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  8. 8. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsthat are bringing revenue to the company, and those are theones that you want to figure out how to make their lives easier.Tom: Even for internal software, the product is not software.The product is an improved business process that either goesfaster, generates more revenue, reduces errors, saves time,improves sales, or whatever.The business process is what matters. Thats where the returncomes from. Your success of your product, of your softwaredevelopment is not measured by cost, schedule, scope, orguesses of what it should take. It is measured by did you havethe impact on the way the business process works that theorganization was hoping for. Thats what success means.Even internally, you have to look at the real product and notmeasure your success based on the software metrics.Joe: A better explanation may be then, and rather than internaland external customer would be the user would be the realcustomer.Mary: Well, there is more than one. Theres always more thanone customer, usually anyway.Some people might be considered customers if they pay for yoursoftware, if they use it, if they derive value from it, or even thepeople who have to support it in the operations environment arethe customers of the software. If you dont do your job right, theycan have a lot of headaches. You always think of multiplecustomers.Tom: Actually, I think the developers themselves are alsocustomers, because theyre going to have to come back andmaintain it. Its not maintainable; they suffer. Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  9. 9. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsJoe: You mentioned at the beginning of this that you really dontlook at project management. You look more at it in a scope ofproduct management. Can you explain that to me more?Mary: If you think of what we just said, your customers arepeople who buy products from your company, or possibly peoplewho are engaged in the process of and help people buy productfrom your company. Really, youre trying to create a feedbackloop that understands how what your software is doing to makethat product better, more attractive, more useful.When people do software, theyre changing something. Theyrechanging a business process. Theyre changing the way a medicaldevice will be used. Theyre changing the way the people willinteract with the website.That kind of thing to concentrate on is; are those people receivingthe value or not? Now projects are generally according to the wayprojects are thought of, something that has a start and an end,then its over. Thats measured by whether or not you deliveredwhat whoever asked you to do the project said they wanted,whether or not you did it within the time and budget that yousaid, and theyre typically funded at the beginning of the project.If you look at software development as something incrementaland always changing, and always being modified based on howthe customers respond, then you are totally outside of thatproject metrics, and youre looking much more at have I createdsomething useful for the business that Im in or for thecustomers, Im serving in this small amount of time.If you go to a company like, well, lets just arbitrarily say Google.Have you ever heard of Google doing projects? No, they deliversoftware sites. They, first of all, put them into their developmentlabs, and they put them into beta, and they check all the things,and they rapidly iterate on whether or not the features that theyhave are the right ones, and they improve it all the time. Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  10. 10. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsThey dont have this concept of a project. They have this conceptof lets do something that our customers will love.Joe: When we start involving customers in the design of ourproducts, and were taking it out there for them to participate inthis beta, and receiving this continuous feedback in this maturity,theyre, in essence, helping us co-create or co-produce ourproduct. Are we involving the customer more in earlier stages,and is that the direction its going?Mary: So, why do we produce products anyway except to solvecustomer problems? Who are we to think we have a deepunderstanding of what the customer problem is that were tryingto solve, unless we get involved with them and understand whatit is that they want, and what kinds of things will delight them?I have a hard time imagining creating any product of any typewithout a lot of deep customer involvement. In fact, when I wasat 3M, I did products that were lighting products. Those wereproducts that also dealt with computer interfaces.Those products, we always spent time making sure we trulyunderstood what the customers wanted. We talked with them; wemade sure that we had a very good understanding of theirproblem as we were developing things. We brought them possiblethings that they might comment on, or we asked those questions.I dont see where this is any different because products arentgoing to be successful if they arent solving customer problems.The customers are the ones that have the problem, and theyunderstand it better.Tom: The idea that the team involves only the software peopleis far too limiting. Its not just software and test. It needs to be awhole team, and that includes many more people. Of course, itincludes operations. It includes the developers. I also includesperhaps finance, perhaps marketing, perhaps customer support. Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  11. 11. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsIt includes everybody who needs to contribute to make a productsuccessful.So thats the whole team. The software people are only a subteam.Joe: One of the latest crazes is the Lean StartupTM, and I saythat in all respect. Lean Startup, to me, is all about customerdevelopment, so it kind of fits in right here. But you addedsomething to the build measure learn cycle in your talk at LeanSoftware and Systems conference. Could you mention that andexpand on that a little for me?Mary: Before you build, you want some idea of why youre doingsomething. So you create a model of how you think things willwork, or a hypothesis. If you look at the standard problemsolving method or scientific method – Tom’s got a PhD, he’s aphysicist -- and you learn the scientific method.The first thing you do in the scientific method is create ahypothesis about how the world behaves that is based on yourcurrent knowledge of the area, which is an informed hypothesis.Then you run some experiments to test it.So you build something, and you measure the results, and youlearn about it, and then you create a new hypothesis.So in the same way, you create a model of what you think thecustomers will like. You dont do just blindly anything. Based onthat model and your understanding of them and the environment,you build something; you measure the results; you learn, andthen you create a new model. This will be an improvement on theold one, or a change if your hypothesis proved not to be true.Joe: Is the build/measure/learn then, youre expanding it reallyto be scientific thinking, and more resembling the PDCA model,that you got to have a plan going forward before the build? Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  12. 12. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsMary: Correct. Oftentimes in the Lean Startup, they say actuallyyou have to learn before you build. So its not different, we justsort of called out that extra step in there.Joe: To me, the Lean startup, if the risks are low of putting aproduct out there with a minimum viable product, you can dothat. But when the risks are high, can you really do that? I mean,can you put that product out there for people to test and stuff, oris there a fine line there that you can kind of clarify?Mary: Well, no, its not fine. Its dependent upon the context. Solets just say youre doing a game. Now, you would be crazy toput out a partially done game, and test it with feedback. You stillhave to test it. Its just that you dont want to make it public.Because games have this nature that if you put it out early, and itisnt quite done, you can get some really bad reviews, and thatsthe end of the game.There are other things like that; if you look at Dropbox, anextremely popular concept. In fact, when we ask people, we find70 or so percent of everybody in every audience is usingDropbox.They had an idea. They tested it with a video -- this is what werethinking of. But then they took 18 months to make sure that theyhad a product which could handle every single operating systemand every device out there, so that when people started using it,they would find it immediately useful for all of their devices, andthey would not be discouraged by a partially done product.If you look at the success of Dropboxs spread rapidly by word ofmouth, they were very wise to wait 18 months before they putout something, because they felt like they had to have acomplete thing. N that its there they still constantly change andimprove and add-on to it. And similarly, youll find there aregames out there that have been improved every year, oncetheyre first released. Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  13. 13. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsSo you have to use your head, you have to understand themarket. You have to understand when something is correctlycorrect, and thats why the Lean Startup says you have to have aminimum viable product. It has to be viable; it has to besomething that is proper for whatever it is that you are doing inyour market, and what makes sense in your context. Just to takea simple rule that works on a website and trying to apply it to amedical device is crazy. It doesnt make any sense at all.So youre not going to be releasing a partially done medicaldevice or programmer for a heartbeat pacemaker, youre going tohave a complete product. Youre going to have a different way ofthinking about feedback.That doesnt mean that you dont try to get it. It just means thatwhen you release software, it has an awful lot to do with theworld that youre living in, and what your customers areexpecting.Joe: When I think about some of this, I think about clicking intoempty 404s, and questions that always frustrate me on the web.Do you really think that is testing that should be done? To seewhich theyre going to choose from in that, so you can gatherdata? Or do you feel like that you should develop a productfarther than that?Mary: I think it depends. It depends on what your objective is,where youre at, what kind of user base, you have, what makessense in your context.I know in his book Eric Ries said he spent two years developingsomething in a company he worked in -- a company that failed,by the way. After it was completely perfect, they put in a buttonto click on and go see this brand new wonderful thing, andnobody clicked on it. If theyd have just put that button in a lotearlier, they would have known. Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  14. 14. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsAnd its not going to a crash site; its bringing somebody to apartially done site that is not necessarily in all cases a bad idea,sometimes it might make a lot of sense.Again, its going to depend on what world youre in and what kindof thing youre trying to accomplish.Tom: A 404 is not very considerate; I agree with that. Amessage that says, "Under construction. If you would like to benotified when this feature is available please leave your emailaddress" can be much better.Joe: I like that better, yeah Tom I have to agree with that. Youtalked about knowledge workers, and the most effectivemotivator being making progress in meaningful work. It soundsgood, but can you really do that? Isnt there a certain amount ofwork that is just drudgery that you got to do?Mary: Like for example?Joe: Oh, I dont know, taking the garbage out? Someones gotto do it, right?Mary: Once you get it out you feel really good about having itdone. I mean, I dont see why any kind of work cant be createdin such a way people make regular progress in these things thatthey are trying to accomplish, and you make sure the peopleknow that.If you read the book "The Progress Principle" it says that at leastfor the knowledge workers -- and Im not talking about taking outgarbage; Im talking about designing a new way of merchandisingor something like that -- you can really create an environment inwhich people make steady progress, understand that they makesteady progress, have small accomplishments, have small timeswhen they have a little setback, and then recovered from that. Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  15. 15. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsI dont understand why at least knowledge work cant be madesomething where you have continuous small progress steps. Ithink its mostly a matter of work design, not the work itself.Tom: Its a matter of communicating why, not just what. Aknowledge worker will apply their intelligence to achieve a lie, butif theyre simply told what to do without any idea of the purposeof it, they have no basis for applying any of their knowledge andexperience and intelligence. So it becomes quite dull work.So just doing what youre told rather than helping people solve aproblem is what the difference is between meaningful and notmeaningful work.Mary: We had a sun room built on the front of our house, and Iwas watching the carpenters, and there were some really trickymeasurements and window sizing that had to be made. T alwayspaired up when they had a tricky thing to do. T would do somemeasurements and scratch their heads and discuss things. W thepair of them came up with the right answer; they would be, "gotthat one."I remember the group was focusing on making sure that whenthey cut lumber, they got the most out of every single board andhad the least amount of scrap. Making progress towards gettingour thing done, when they found just the right size board, so theywouldnt have to waste any, "Hey, that was a win." That wasprogress.It doesnt take much to have progress. It just says, our objectiveis to have the least amount of work, and I found the right sizeboard for this piece of the window frame.So it doesnt take a lot to have progress, but you have to say, "Iknow why Im supposed to have the least amount of lumberused. Its so that we dont waste it. So that we can make more Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  16. 16. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsmoney for our salaries, rather than pay for the materials." Orwhatever it is.I dont really think its hard to structure jobs around meaningfulprogress. It just takes thinking.Joe: I think thats a great analogy, and I have to add that "TheProgress Principle" is one of the better books Ive read recently. Ithink I actually listened to it first, and then went out and boughtthe book also.So do you have a new book on the horizon? Or whats on thehorizon for the both of you?Mary: Yes, we do. We are taking the next five or six months offand writing a new book. Currently, it has a working title of "TheLean Mindset" and its about how thinking in a Lean mannerwould apply to all aspects of developing software- intensiveproducts.Joe: How can someone contact you if theyre interested inlearning more?Mary: My email is mary@poppendieck.com, Toms istom@poppendieck.com. So if you can spell Poppendieck, you cancontact us. But Ill spell it. P-O-P-P-E-N-D-I-E-C-K, and the rest iseasy.Joe: I would like to thank the both of you very much. Iappreciate the conversation, and I look forward to hearing fromyou again sometime, and reading your book. Youll have to putme on a list and come back on the podcast to explain the book abit.Mary: OK, sounds great. Thanks a lot.Joe: Thank you. This podcast will be available in theBusiness901 iTunes store and the Business901 blog site. Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901
  17. 17. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Joseph T. Dager Lean Marketing Systems Ph: 260-438-0411 Fax: 260-818-2022 Email: jtdager@business901.com Web/Blog: http://www.business901.com Twitter: @business901 What others say: In the past 20 years, Joe and I have collaborated on many difficult issues. Joes ability to combine his expertise with "out of the box" thinking is unsurpassed. He has always delivered quickly, cost effectively and withingenuity. A brilliant mind that is always a pleasure to work with." James R.Joe Dager is President of Business901, a progressive company providingdirection in areas such as Lean Marketing, Product Marketing, ProductLaunches and Re-Launches. As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt,Business901 provides and implements marketing, project and performanceplanning methodologies in small businesses. The simplicity of a singleflexible model will create clarity for your staff and as a result betterexecution. My goal is to allow you spend your time on the need versus theplan.An example of how we may work: Business901 could start with aconsulting style utilizing an individual from your organization or a virtualassistance that is well versed in our principles. We have capabilities toplug virtually any marketing function into your process immediately. Asproficiencies develop, Business901 moves into a coach’s role supporting theprocess as needed. The goal of implementing a system is that the processeswill become a habit and not an event. Business901 Podcast Opportunity Expert Status Lean Marketing Lab Process Control Thoughts from the Poppendiecks Copyright Business901