6 Obstacles to Process Improvement

Six Obstacles to Process Analysis and Improvement, Prabhaker Panditi - www.LeadingAgility.com

6 Obstacles to Process Improvement

“The cup is overflowing” cries the student as the master keeps pouring tea. “Like this cup, you are already full of ideas”  replies the master calmly. “I cant put anything in it before you empty your cup.” Despite Hollywood’s caricature of this Zen episode, it has a profound message for business process analysis and improvement.

Let’s say you want to study the current process of liquidity management of a bank, or materials planning for a manufacturing or distribution entity. Approaching this assignment with your ‘cup full’ robs you of the chance to notice anything new. You miss the subtle variations in processes that invariably exist among organizations.  And unless you examine the current situation thoroughly and understand why each step exists, the redesigned or re-engineered process is bound to be sub-optimal.

As for the outside world, you will be confronted by what you see. And what you see is primarily what you look at.

— Zen saying

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The Shrink Law of Agile

Shrink Law of Agile, Prabhaker Panditi - www.LeadingAgility.com

Parkinson’s Law meets its match: The Shrink Law of Agile

How long does it take to paint the Statue of Liberty?  If a team has hundred days to clean The Titanic, how many days will they take to do it?  What if they have fifty days, instead of hundred?  Though hard to believe,  the answer to each of these questions may be same.  Each task will take the time allocated for it!

That’s Parkinson’s Law at work. Work increases to fill the time available.

C. Northcote Parkinson introduced the Law in his article in the Economist in 1955.  “The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may… leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil” he declared. Originally aimed at the  bureaucracy, you can see the Law at work in everyday situations.   The Law may sound funny, outrageous, irrational, insulting…until you look at others’ work.  Not yours of course, other peoples’. 

The Law applies to almost all human endeavor.   Exceptions are only few.  Agile  is one of them.

When the going gets tough, the tough…lower goals.

Agile not only ignores Parkinson’s Law, it actually reverses it…to start with. 

In Agile,  work reduces to fill the time available. Reduces!  I call it the Shrink Law of Agile.

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Why And When To Move To Agile – Lessons From The Rain King

Why And When to Move to Agile, by Prabhaker Panditi, www.LeadingAgility.com

“What made me take this trip to Africa?” There is no quick explanation. Things got worse and worse and worse and pretty soon they were too complicated”. Thus begins the story of Eugene Henderson, 55-year-old American millionaire in Saul Bellow’s classic ‘Henderson the Rain King’. During his eventful journey, Henderson meets two tribes and goes through several adventures including devising an explosive to rid their cistern of frogs and instead blowing up both the water and the frogs. Later, in a dramatic incident he manages to move a giant wooden statue and is unwittingly anointed the ‘Rain King’.

Fortunately, companies need not wait for things to get “worse and worse and worse” to start creating greater shareholder wealth, more fulfilled employees and higher customer delight. They need not take a trip to Africa either. They can proactively start with Agile methods, now.

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