Lean Principles in Practice of a Ten-Year Old


Tech Trek – 2012.03.16

As a parent, it is our obligation to impart knowledge to our children and have them learn from us by example. In my case, I was surprised to learn from my two kids about software development principles that we can all apply in the enterprise. Recently, I’ve allowed my kids to create a YouTube channel so they can upload their own videos. One of them diligently works on planning an elaborate design for his production and still yet has to post his first video.

While my other ten-year old child, who may not have the best of short films but have already produced 22 uploads to date. Watching the short clips that she made, you can see the improvements were done even with the minimal script that she prepares. What is also interesting is that she would record short clips and piece them together to build the whole story. She has also made short preview of things she plans to release in a couple of months to get early feedback on what viewers may like to see.

So how does it relate to product development principles? In recent years, we’ve seen the explosion of lean practices either in manufacturing or software development. If we take a look at the approaches of my ten-year old child, we can draw the following conclusions: 

LEAN DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES

Eliminate Waste
By releasing films as she finishes them, she eliminates the waste to store what she has filmed and minimizes wasted opportunities of not releasing the stories she wants to tell. Typically, a common issue whether in manufacturing, software development, or starting up a business is that we tend to do “analysis by paralysis” and waste our efforts to build the grand cathedral instead of using the bazaar model, that is, to share our ideas. See The Cathedral and the Bazaar essay by Eric Raymond.

Amplify Learning
With frequent release cycles, she has learned the finer points of using the video production tool that I’ve provided so she can improve her skills. In iterative development, the framework forces one to do regular release cycles so that learning and feedback can be achieved early, thereby, hitting your targets or goals much better as you build the product.

Decide as late as possible, or defer commitment
Since she produces preview clips and receive feedback or see the how many views were made, she can decide as late as possible on which series to produce. By providing various storylines to her subscribers, she can then devote her efforts on which movie to commit and get a better handle on the uncertainties for her target audience. This principle allows her to adopt changes to the requirements which is usually is the costly mistake in product development due to the changes, or introducing things that may not be valued.

Deliver as fast as possible
At the same token, she is able to deliver as fast as possible with those early previews and likely build the audience interest. This is most especially true in the YouTube youth generation of today. You will need to produce deliverable results that one can see and sample so that they can immediately relate to your product or system that you are trying to build.

Empower the team
By handing her the tools she needs, she feels empowered with the equipment and tools she uses to build the movies at her own pace. This also empowers the audience since they have input on what is more beneficial to them. Imagine the traditional market research of conducting small focus groups into a larger scale, the more your product gets exposed, then it is more likely that you’ll gather more information on what improvements to make.

See the whole picture
By creating short clips and piecing them together, she is able to see as a whole what she wanted to deliver for each of those cut scenes rather than filming it as one long clip and re-editing them later. It is amazing that she sees her movies as part of a series just like doing a small piece of the puzzle for an integration project. Getting an overall vision to the project allows you view how things play together. A good example of this is the production of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; you can’t just take one of the movies without taking the whole story in context. As the adage goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

In summary, we don’t need to have perfect designs to execute the projects at hand. I’m blessed that I both kids have different talents since the older one is good at planning and the younger one is good at implementation. In my leadership role, I only gave them a couple of guidelines and allowed them to take ownership of their projects. As such the biggest lesson learned for me in retrospect is to equip them on what they need and rather encourage their growth on their interests.

So, how about you? I’d be interested on what have you learned recently from a child that can be applied to the business environment. Kids may not get them right or understand such concepts at their early age but what’s important is we can also learn from them.

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