Archives for the month of: October, 2007

This is the second post related to implementing Lean in our IT office. The last post summarized the first week as an introduction into the process and terminology of Lean. We also started to identify specific processes\issues we would like to work on.

This past week we jumped into Value Stream Management. The process flow we decided to work on was our helpdesk ticket system. The underlying concern from the teams was how do we improve the value stream and provide our customer better response time and service.

Here’s a quick summary of how the last two weeks went down:

  • I spoke with each manager and asked for a resource to be a member of the Lean team. The requirements were that the resource has a good understanding on how their department handles tickets and that the resource has availability to participate in the team in a consistent and reliable fashion.
  • I scheduled with our corporate Lean Leader to be onsite to facilitate the meetings (he worked with us for the first three meetings.)
  • We got commitment from management for three (3), two (2) hour meetings the first week. We then decided on two (2), two (2) hour meetings for the following three (3) weeks.
  • I worked with the Lean Leader to set up the room prior to the meetings. This included using sticky presentation sheets to create multiple work areas on the walls. We had an area for Current State Flow, Parking Lot, Key Projects, Key Data, Key Metrics, and Team Members. We used 3×3 color post-its with permanent marker for recording the data (post-its can be easily moved and changed.)
  • The team kicked off with the Lean Leader providing a quick foundations presentation on Lean (similar to the one provided to the managers earlier) which lasted about an hour.
  • We then went right into mapping the Current State of the ticket process. Note: The initial scope was to work on tickets, service requests and projects. We narrowed the scope to tickets and service requests. The scope was further narrowed to just tickets when it was discovered (through reports) that service requests made up small percentage of work requests.
  • I was pleasantly surprised at the openness and collaborative nature of the discussions. The team worked well together in trying to get the current process captured.
  • It took about 6 hours to capture the current state. We are still working on getting data on cycle times due to the variable nature of the product (helpdesk tickets) and questionable reports.
  • Some data we are collecting include time we spend in meetings. We created “meeting tickets” to accomplish this. The whole office is participating. The goal is for each meeting the meeting attendee will fill out a meeting ticket with name, date, scheduled meeting length and actual meeting length. We have drop boxes throughout the office to place the tickets. We are collecting this data over 3 weeks to determine how much time we are actually spending in meetings.
  • We are also going to sample work days using Activity Logs. This will allow us to get cycle times for things like opening tickets, working tickets, etc.

We struggled with a number of things this first few weeks. One was the learning curve in understanding Lean. We could have done well with more training as a team and especially me individually as the Lean Leader (I continued facilitating the meetings after our corporate Lean Leader left.) We also spent some time talking about one of the software applications as opposed to focusing on the process. I would also say we don’t have a good grasp of who the customer is and how they would determine what is and is not waste.

Next steps starting this week include starting to map out the Future State for our value stream map. I hope to provide a more timely update after this week.


Lean Manufacturing is one of six focus areas to which my company has committed (funds, energy, resources.) We here in IT have heard great testimonials about how the Lean process has reduced waste and increased revenue and profit on the manufacturing floor. Recently, my manager came out of a managers’ meeting (that is what manager’s do) and asked if I’d be interested in the role of Lean Leader for our department. Considering that my workload was light, I welcomed the opportunity. Also, it was right down my alley, as I would think it would be for many PMs. It is a well-defined science with a set of philosophies, processes, tools, techniques, books and, just like PM, requires a good deal of people management.

Our Lean journey (as it is referred to) began on Monday. I will use this site to provide updates on the process and our implementation of it.

Here’s what went down. Our company has an Operational Excellence office from which a group of “Leaders” work. Last Friday, we received notice that our Lean Leaders would be here on Monday (now that’s Lean notification if you ask me.)

On Monday, the corporate Lean leaders pulled together our management team for a 1.5h Lean Foundations presentation. This provided some basic introduction to the language and process for Lean.

On Tuesday, I sat in on one-on-one interviews with the managers and the Lean leaders. The goal of these meetings was to understand what processes the managers own and where they saw opportunity to improve. First, let me state that I feel that the purpose of the meetings was not well defined and that closed-door meetings in our office often cause some anxiety. With that said, the one-on-one’s ranged from insightful and thoughtful to accusatory to downright aggressive. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to how comfortable (i.e secure) an individual is with honestly talking about and reflecting upon their area of responsibility and their responsiveness to suggestions or questioning about the validity of how they do their job and if they can see ways of improving. Essentially, no process is perfect. Even the best continue to seek improvement (that’s how they maintain their elite status.)

On Wednesday, we (the Lean leaders and I) summarized the notes we took from the interviews and tried to narrow down areas to address. We did this on a 2×2 board with Difficulty and Benefit axes. We talked about Heijunkas and Kanbans and Visual Stream Mappings. I had to asked a number of clarifying questions since much of this was new to me and my homework on the topic was constrained to manufacturing topics.

On Thursday, the Lean leaders gave a summary presentation on what was discovered and their recommended 30 day and 60-90 day initiatives.

Next steps include deciding what we as a group will pursue. I hope to provide an update shortly on our next steps on the Lean journey.