Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Muda of Muda

Toyota is the template for life
Have you seen some of those Toyota utility vehicles? Almost indestructable. They must have a secret or two up their sleeve. Indeed, as a result of this, we're going to use the Toyota manufacturing system which was made in Japan as the template for any system we ever dream up to do with software. This makes sense because it does and anything which disagrees with it is a muda.

Enter my Dojo
Welcome, young Gaijin, to my dojo where I will Kawasaki your ass off with a bunch of mystifying katas.

Firstly, remember that it's cooler if you adopt Japanese words for the purpose of illustrating points about software engineering process.

Secondly, remember that they don't have to be meaningful, they're just meant to be buzzy.

Gotta love them tiger feet, right? No! Tiger feet are bad. We need proper human feet, highly training in the martial arts of making proper software. Muda is the word we use for anything that I don't like the sound of. Muda in Toyota terms means wastage, the idea that some things that we do in the name of work don't add value to the output and so should not be done.

The Muda of Muda
In reality, not every second of every day can be spent in creating profit for our employer. In reality, a reasonable employer would be perfectly reasonable in expecting their employees to do as much as possible to use their time to make money for the company. In reality, given that nobody wants to do a bad job, a reasonable employee would want to use their time most profitably.

Sometimes people make mistakes.

Sometimes it's subjective and no amount of pseudo-science can calculate whether taking a particular phone call will add value or remove value from the value-stream. At that point, you need trust. This trust should not be abused by employer or employee, though many do seem to feel that sitting in the office pissing about on eBay or reading the paper somehow counts towards their salary, and many employers feel the need to bring in trumped up business analysts to state the frickin' obvious and talk with fancy words like Muda.

So, Muda is actually Muda. The whole thing smacks of smugness.

Assuming that the whole team realises the important of keeping focused on delivering value, and gets feedback that they're delivering value, and is allowed to look into the obstacles that prevent them from improving their output... well, then you don't need words for it. It's just plain sense.

Not everyone is that smart.

Some people are obsessive about process, forgetting that you can't polish a turd. If your people aren't up to the job then your process will, at best, turn them into automatons that hate you (see MacDonalds) or at worst will turn them into mutinous individuals.

It's the people who need to be motivated, not the process. They need leadership, feedback and the authority to bust any problems that are getting in their way. They need to know to look out for such problems, which should be a matter of leadership.

The Muda of Muda of Muda
I've no idea. It never really made sense in the first place.


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