You can consider this my Lean Lean Manifesto, using the analogy of Model-View-Controller software design pattern.
The M: People instead of processes
What’s the Model or the raw material of any great agile or lean organization? It’s the people. I know that this is a cliché, but you would be surprised how non-trivial this is.
If you are elitist (hire only supermen in the team and then all motivation and skills are given), recruiting will be a nightmare. On the contrary, if you hire the “low hanging fruit” kind of people, you’ll struggle making them perform, and start creating bureaucracy and control hell.
This is an endless struggle back and forth, but now I tend to vote on the elitist side. Come on, the world is full of brilliant people, you should just take up the challenge and find them!
The V: Happy customers instead of charts and metrics
How can you have a good View on how well things are going?
Lots of Agile and Lean people love measurements and charts and everything. Burndown, burnup, cumulative control flow, whatever. In my eyes these are all just optical tricks to try to convince otherwise unconvinced stakeholders that with Agile and Lean you are efficient and not wasting time or resources. I wrote tricks because charts come from numbers, numbers come from some discrete mathematical representation of software engineering (being a chaotic and endlessly complex activity that is impossible to describe in discrete terms), so in the end this is always being used for lying.
This is all useless. You either work hard and well and end up having happy customers or you don’t. No chart will change that.
The C: Loosely coupled management levels instead of deep transparency and control
In large organizations and projects you need control. Or some kind of a system. Otherwise it gets too chaotic too fast. I mean, lots of dependencies, conflicts of interest, communication mess, politics, time zone differences, cultural complexity and all that.
So how do we handle this? It is too tempting (again) to introduce bureaucracy, tons of administration, reports everywhere, KPIs. However, if you do this, there is one thing for granted: you lose sight of what’s important: trust, accountability, motivation and empowerment.
So isn’t this a catch 22? I believe it doesn’t have to be.
I think if management is brave enough to take trust and eccountability seriously, you can start having loosely coupled management / control layers. By this I mean that every single person in the organization should be concerned about only one level down and one level up in the hierarchy of responsibilities. Then you don’t have to force one administrative system on everyone in the organization, but every small set of depending teams can have their own way of communicating up and down. The only thing that matters is that on each level of the organization the proper granularity of provided information and decision span is established.
This way, instead of heavy lean, you can do lean lean.