Waste in Agile – Are We Truly Rid Of It?


As true Agile enthusiasts, we strive to eliminate all of the waste in our processes. Cutting the production time, looking for the best practices and asking for frequent client feedback are just a few of the methods we use. However, the focus is usually on the waste of time and money, but another very important aspect is completely forgotten. Should the physical waste of our product be considered a part of the Agile cycle?

While this is mostly not relevant in the software development field where Agile has originated, it is quickly becoming something that has to be talked about. As Agile spreads into other fields and industries, the amount of physical wastefulness is becoming more and more apparent. One of the most obvious examples of this can be found very close to each and every one of us. Most likely, you have even visited this business today or plan to do so later on, as it is something we simply cannot go without – the food stores.

Food Industry

Food is essential to our survival and there is no surprise that the food industry has mastered the art of putting it onto our dinner table. We are used to getting those cold drinks on hot summer days and curling up with soul food when it’s raining out. The food industry collects massive amounts of data on our eating habits, holidays, weather, health situation, etc. and does everything else possible, so that we could all find exactly what we are looking for at the right time. Think about it – when was the last time you couldn’t get something you wanted at the grocery store?

Unless you are into those gourmet cheeses and wines, it has probably been a while. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, fishes and everything else year round just around the corner. From this point of view it would seem that food industry has truly mastered agility – getting us what we want when we want it. But now take a moment and think about what happens to the food that is not sold? How much food is thrown out every day because the store ordered too much, it did not look nice or had the wrong packaging?

You have an estimation? Here is the truth – United States alone throws out a third of the food it produces and the grocery stores are accountable for 10% of that number. Would you call that Agile? Even if lean methods are used for delivery of the goods, the practice of over ordering is still alive and creating massive amounts of waste in companies that call themselves Agile. Such stores are not only wasting money, they are actually creating physical waste that rots and pollutes our planet. And all this while there are still thousands and thousands of people starving.

The Agile Lifecycle

So when talking about Agility in fields that produce an actual physical product, we should not only be talking about getting it to the customer efficiently, but thinking about the whole lifecycle and how it could be optimized. As waste is created not only in our production cycle and processes, but also as a result of our actions. And as per the Agile standards it should be avoided at any cost.

Supermarkets and the food industry in general is just one of many examples were companies use Agile practices, but are not truly Agile. And by no means is this their fault, as Agile itself only talks about production optimization. But as the method is moving away from software development and into other fields, it is important to start thinking about the whole product lifecycle instead. So that there is no waste not only in the production of our products, but also as a result of our actions, creating environmentally responsible and sustainable practices.

In the case of food industry there are already several ways of avoiding wasted food. First and foremost is analyzing and trusting the data to order the necessary amounts instead of over ordering. Working with charities and giving away the leftover food to those less fortunate people. And educating the customers about the food industry and why the spotted banana or a bruised tomato is still perfectly good to eat. The important thing now is understanding that those practices should be part of the Agile cycle, not just a good deed a company can opt for.

As Agile is moving and expanding away from its original roots in software development, it is becoming more important to rethink how its values translate to physical products. Eliminating waste should no longer be understood as just making sure the company processes are effective, but should instead take over the whole product lifecycle from beginning to end. Thus making sure that not only our processes are waste free, but the results of our actions are as well. 


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The Hierarchy of Agile Methods

If you, just like us, ever found yourself confused by the number of agile methodologies and their hierarchy, then this post is exactly for you. We use the picture below as our cheat sheet and thought some of you would like it as well. So let us dive in!

agile hierarchy

As expected, at the core of it all we have the agile theory, representing the core values and the 12 principles defined in the manifesto. As you know, this theory in itself does not provide any specific rules, it simply reflects what the project management teams should strive for, such as improvement of the process, continuous delivery and others. Therefore we made sure to separate agile in the picture, so we would not forget and would not start to associate it with just one methodology.

Talking about the methodologies, these are the next part of the pictures. Listed closest to agile, we have the methodologies that were developed straight after the agile manifesto or adapted to fit its requirements. Here we find Agile Modeling, Adaptive software development (ASD), Agile Unified Process (AUP), Crystal Clear Methods, Dynamic systems development method (DSDM), Feature-driven development (FDD), Lean software development, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum and extreme programming (XP).

We consider these to be the first generation agile methodologies, because they were not influenced by or based on other agile methods. The second generation of methodologies is the exact opposite. Kanban, Scrum-ban, Large Scaled Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), Nexus, Enterprise scrum and Industrial Extreme Programming (IXP) were all created out of meshing other agile methods, or by trying to improve a single already existing method out there.

One more interesting thing about the second generation agile methods is that they are often used out of the traditional agile industry of software development and more often than not adopted to serve larger teams and even full corporations.

We hope this clears up your questions and invite you to share your cheat sheets or any possible additions to ours.

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5 reasons to switch from your kanban board

Despite the fact, that kanban software solutions have been around for quite a while now, there are plenty of teams that still do not fully understand the benefits of switching from the traditional physical board. Instead of innovating to better their standings, they keep on working in the traditional methods and while this does not mean failure by default, it usually does not mean greatness either. Therefore, if you have been using kanban for a while now or if you are just starting now, you should consider this:

  • Unlimited board space

Difficulty in fitting all the tasks within the project board sound familiar? When working with a physical board, your space and possibilities are limited. The space you have is all you get, well unless you get a bigger board, bigger wall and probably a bigger office. Because of this, you have to compromise a lot and modify constantly to make sure your board looks good and represents the project visually. With an electronic kanban software solution like Eylean however you do not have to worry about that at all. Make the board as small or as big as you need to and expand automatically when you add new tasks. No matter how big or how small your board is, you will have all the key information on the task cards and will be able to navigate it quickly.

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Day to day accounting with Kanban

accountantLast week we wrote about how projects in the financial sector can benefit from the scrum approach. This week however we decided to take a look at a smaller guys instead. At our focus you will find – the accounting firms and their day-to day operations.

Accounting firms are nothing new, nonetheless they are extremely important to a lot a businesses out there. Without the meticulous work they do, a lot of business owners would be completely lost in trying to sort out their finances complying with all the local and international laws and regulations. Therefore it is safe to say that these firms are one of the core pillars holding up a business.

Most of the accounting firms out there work in a simple way – they offer a variety of financial services that are completed by a qualified staff of accountants and the clients are billed based on the work done for them. The accountants are responsible for specific accounts and complete their work. Keep in mind that an average accountant firm can have hundreds of clients and up to a hundred of accountants to do the job. Therefore, it is safe to say that the day to day operations can get quite confusing.

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Measuring Team Performance for Kanban: Lead and Cycle times

Written by: Dalia Lasaite

In order to improve, every team needs to monitor and evaluate its performance.  There are two key tools for measuring performance in Kanban: the Cumulative Flow Diagram, which we covered in a previous blog post, and the Lead and Cycle Diagram. Lead and cycle diagram measures two indicators – lead and cycle times. This blog post reviews lead and cycle times and how to use them to increase team’s performance.

The image bellow shows the definition of Lead Time and Cycle Time.

 lean and cycle time

Image source: http://stefanroock.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/leadtimes3.png

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Moving your Kanban projects into Eylean

This week, we continue with the Eylean how-to series by taking a closer look into how your Kanban projects should be created or moved into Eylean. Starting with a new software or a new way of managing your daily tasks can be overwhelming sometimes, therefore we will give you some pointers to make the transition as smooth as possible. However as we always point out, these are only guidelines for when you first start and you should feel encouraged to experiment and to use Eylean in a way that best suits your process and your needs.

First up, you will need to create your board. We in Eylean like to give you choices therefore you are able to copy your existing Kanban board or to use a prepared template to start anew. If you want to have a replica of your existing board, simply enter all the specifics in the settings tab – you will create an exact match. However, if you are new to Kanban or wish to start fresh, you can use the provided template Kanban board that has the basic columns all set. One important thing to remember is that you can adjust and modify your boards at any time, especially if you feel that they do not fit your requirements anymore.


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Why reports should be part of your daily routine

Stack-of-reports-007When talking about reports, the image that comes to most of our heads is hundreds and hundreds of pages filled with words, numbers and charts. In fact, most of us do not like to either prepare or to read reports unless they contain the exact information we are looking for. However, this image of reporting is a little outdated as with the new technology available, they have changed and are able to bring a lot more to the table.

Since the computerization of the office, the changes in reports can be summarized in three words – automatic, on time and insightful. Nowadays, the reports are mostly automatic as various project management software does exist for the sole purpose of generating them for the team. Because of that, reports are also usually live, meaning that the needed report can be accessed at any time and it will provide up to date information. The insight that reports can create for the team is also greater, as a computer can quickly analyze and cross-analyze the important data to provide information that may not be visible at first.

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5 steps to start doing Kanban

Starting to implement Kanban can seem a little intimidating at first, especially if you have no previous experience with it. However, you need to remember that Kanban is all about constant improvement and change therefore all you have to do is take the first few steps and soon you will be well on your way.

The methodology does not provide us with the fool-proof way to start, however it does give us the three main principles to follow through the whole process:

  • Visualize your workflow.
  • Limit the things you work on.
  • Optimize your cycle time.

From the three principles above we can draw 5 steps to take when starting with Kanban. The first step is to get to know and understand the current processes of the company. That is the whole process from the customer’s initial request to the final product or service. You need to know what type of tasks are carried out, what steps they need to go through, who assigns responsibility, etc. This is very important in order to understand what is happening in your company at the moment and how it can be improved in the future.

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Measuring Team Performance in Kanban: Cumulative Flow Diagram

If your team is using Kanban, you probably want to know how effective your team is when using this pull technique. The approaches of measuring team effectiveness in Kanban are numerous – it would probably be possible to list dozens of metrics designed to evaluate this technique. However, in order to keep it simple, we will discuss the two of the most common metrics used to evaluate Kanban performance – and will provide a few insights on what you can learn from them. These methods are Cumulative Flow Diagram as well as Lead and Cycle Diagram. The latter will be covered in another blog post.

Both of these metrics are supported at Eylean, so we will help you understand how to make the most sense of these metrics.

Cumulative flow diagram

The most common approach of measuring team performance at Kanban is Cumulative Flow Diagram or CFD. An example of Cumulative Flow Diagram is described below.

 Cumulative flow diagram


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How to do Lean projects

Lean is a practice where the main idea is to maximize customer value and minimize waste.  Generally, this means to deliver value for customers with fewer resources. In other words it is a set of management practices based on Toyota Production System. These practices are applied in manufacturing as well as in service industries. Lean integration drives elimination of waste by adopting reusable elements, high automation and quality improvements. In this post I will try to cover most of the principles and techniques that can be applied in lean project.

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