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Making IT Lean by Rebecca Duray, Howard Williams

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173
Chapter 8
Implementing and Sustaining
Lean IT Improvements
We ended the last chapter with a dose of reality that characterizes many IT
environments. Specically, it is hard to implement improvements when there
is so much work to do just to keep up with demands. Let’s put aside for
the moment the fact that the problem we just represented is an example of
waste (backlog of work), and focus instead on the real dilemma of how an
IT organization can start to work on Lean improvements with all the com-
peting demands on time. The analogy that is sometimes used is that it’s like
changing tires on a car when the car is in motion. While that is a graphic
analogy, we don’t think it is the right one, or rather we would prefer to look
at it this way: Race cars need to change tires all the time in the middle of a
race, and they dont change them while the car is in motion. What they do
is streamline the process of changing tires so they can do it very quickly.
There is another set of problems that we suggested in the last chapter
as well, and it has to do with how we can justify the initial investment in
improvement solutions and then demonstrate the progress of these efforts
along the way (specifically, to management). We said that many of the
allowances that the Lean Approach presents, for example, that it is okay to
make mistakes, may not be the sort of message that you want to take to
management when reporting on progress of improvement efforts. What we
will suggest below is that we can do things to scope the work so results are
seen sooner rather than later, and increase the probability of success in our
efforts. Both of these will help in communication with management and it
174 ◾  Making IT Lean: Applying Lean Practices to the Work of IT
will allow you to focus on your successes in these communications rather
than on mistakes that may appear to jeopardize your credibility.
Finally, there is the problem of how we can make sure that when we
make improvements in process, they will endure over time and the organi-
zation will not slip back to old ways of doing things. We call this sustain-
ability, and it is a very real problem underlying any improvement effort,
regardless of the methodology employed. We actually already have laid
the foundation for how we can achieve sustainability, but we will clarify
that in more detail below, specifically by addressing the role of various
Critical Success Factors, or Lean Enablers. We have identied the contribu-
tion these make in the Lean Improvement Model, and, in this chapter, we
want to spend some time discussing specically what they are and how
they help.
All of these issues can be addressed in the context of what we refer to
as Continuous Improvement in the Quality Management (QM) domain, and
what ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) calls Continual Service Improvement. We
will adopt the QM terminology here, but the meaning is exactly the same.
Continuous Improvement
As we have suggested at several points throughout the book, our philosophy
of Continuous Improvement relates to two different avenues for improve-
ment. One pertains to the continual attention we give to identifying and
understanding problem opportunities, which we have suggested is essen-
tially limitless in scope because of the pervasiveness of waste. The second
has to do with the necessary attention we give to the ongoing improvement
of solutions we have implemented, in order to tune them, make them work,
and make them work better. This philosophy suggests the continuous use
and refinement of various practices that reflect A3 Thinking and disciplined
use of PDCA (Plan–DoCheck–Act). This philosophy also corresponds to
that of Kaizen as practiced by Lean practitioners.
1
In conducting the work of IT in the spirit of Kaizen, or Continuous
Improvement, we have suggested several practical recommendations
throughout the book, including the following:
Use the Lean Problem-Solving script (from the Lean Improvement Model)
Ongoing solicitation of problems from those closest to them, namely
employees

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