I believe that we subconsciously apply Lean and Agile Methodologies every day of our lives and I can only imagine where we could go if we learned to apply these principles intentionally. I believe in improvement for Everyone. I want to be the “Everyday Agilist”!

They say that a man’s most expensive passion in life begins with a one dollar Hot Wheels car. Like most men I know, my husband hankered for what many might call a “mid-life crisis toy”. He was rewarded for his years of patient parenting with a charming little two seater convertible.

I bet you are now saying to yourself: “What does this have to do with Lean and Agile”? Let me explain…
Along with my husband’s sweet little sports car came grandsons and a new generation of Hot Wheels enthusiasts was born. Still wondering where the Lean and Agile lesson is hiding?

I did not get the connection either until I watched them play happily one afternoon…

Related post : The Agilist and the Caregivers

There were my husband and grandsons: busily forming a plan about the elaborate tracking system that would encircle the rec room; happily discussing the height and distance of the launch ramp, the placement of the loops and super chargers and of course the Indy 500 banked curve at the far end. They assembled their collection of tracks and cars and prioritized which parts of the track to build first. Does anyone see a product or sprint backlog here? And the project’s goal? The coolest track ever!

They determined that the first step (read “sprint”) was to deliver the acceleration system up to, and including, the first loop-the-loop. They proceeded to pull out a ladder and attach a long stretch of track to one of the rungs and connected the looping section to it. They then proceeded with product testing. With the first selection of cars, I began to realize that these boys (the old and the young ones) were actually applying Scrum empiricism through the three pillars of transparency, inspection and adaptation.

Each run down the track was a test of the track and the weight of the car. A common definition of done was established. It defined that as long as a single car could make the loop, the section of the track would be deemed complete. Adjustments to allow lighter and heavier cars to be successful would be saved for future iterations. As each test was complete, the height of the track and the horizontal distance it spanned were adjusted until the first car was successful. Gramma was invited to watch, the first Sprint Review! The only thing lacking was timeboxing, but then time has little meaning to two little boys with a combined age of five and their Grampa!

As more sections of the track were added in subsequent sprints, more loosely formed hypotheses of aerodynamics were applied. Of course, product testing was done with each addition to make sure it was compatible with the original design. Each run down the ramp was an experiment to test and adapt the construction. Of course, there were some spectacular crashes! What was different was the uproarious laughter that met each failed attempt. Nothing like what I see in the world of business. For here, failure and crashes were part of the fun. Each was followed by an analysis of the underlying cause. Was the angle too steep? Was the car too light? Was the track straight enough? Were there bumps? Here was transparency at its best. I began to wonder what the business world would be like with this amount of transparency…

Where was the blame that is so prevalent in the business world? The word “failure” was never uttered. I thought about the teams that I coach. What if we did not judge the hypothesis by the failed experiment but rather by the lessons learned? What if we stopped using phrases like “heads will roll”? How much better results would we achieve as a team if we were no longer focused on who to blame for the failure and how to protect ourselves from the fallout of the failed attempts? I came to the realization that judgement was the killer of teams and projects.

So how do I apply that to the teams I work with today? When teammates drop by my desk, they will see two sheets of paper pinned to my wall: the first is a picture of the scientific method and the second is a picture of Thomas Alva Edison’s Menlo Park lab. Most people understand the first picture and its application to Lean and Agile. Most Question the second… I tell them that it’s a reminder that while history remembers Mr. Edison as one of the world’s greatest inventors, the real lesson he provides us all is the 2774 failed experiments that did not stop him from making a filament for the electric light. Ironically, the filament that first provided twenty hours of continuous light was never put into production. He had improved it even more before the first commercial bulb rolled off the assembly line to illuminate Manhattan. There is always room for improvement…

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Barbara Schultz

I believe that in order to be successful in the 21st century, one must not just manage and cope with change, one must aspire to be transformational. But how does one learn to “think outside of the box”? As a lifelong learner, I want to be a part of your transformation journey. My experience as a corporate change management and process specialist has allowed me to develop my Lean, Agile and Six Sigma skills into a varied toolbox to simplify change management and development. My training as a life coach and mental health facilitator provides a collaborative human touch to add heart and happiness to the experience. After all, Lean is really about finding the shortest distance between two points by leveraging the power of your people. I look forward to providing your team with the training and consulting services that will simplify and demystify your transformation journey.

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