In today’s competitive marketplace, software teams need to work as agile as possible in order to assure success. Software engineers spend 90% of their time reading, and only 10% writing code. The repeating pattern of work, and the fact that we often need access to common information, makes the creation of structured information one of the most important jobs of a team. Everything is easier when the tools you need are at hand and in the proper places. So to figure out how to best handle this when we are engaged in our digital transformation partnerships, we went back to where it all started: lean manufacturing. People working in operations learned some of these lessons a long time ago.
One of the lean manufacturing ideas is that of the 5S methodology—a set of guidelines for keeping a work space orderly so that people don’t waste a lot of time looking for tools and materials. 5S focuses on the cleanliness, organization, and standardization in order to create an efficient and effective work process. The 5S methodology originated from 5 Japanese words which have been translated to English:
- Seiri – sort
- Seiton – set in order
- Seiso – shine
- Seiketsu – standardize
- Shitsuke – sustain
In this series of articles the focus will be on SoftVision’s work with our partners on creating and maintaining information that generates value in terms of quality of work and capability to scale. We are often asked to scale 1 or 2 more pods into one of our engagements. Imagine for a second what would happen without the right on-boarding information. One way to visualize it is as a manufacturing line or team in a factory; picture all those people running around, not knowing where to start, where to find the information, and chasing others to get more information. How productive will that manufacturing line be? This should give you an idea about the effectiveness of a software team that doesn’t have handy the right information. So, let’s quickly look at the role each of the 5S’s will play into this scenario.
Sort – at this step we focus on the elimination of any unnecessary clutter. Usually, when we engage with customers, there are a lot of documents or information repositories that they created throughout multiple years. Some of the information is not necessarily relevant to what we need. So we spend some time identifying what is necessary and what is “clutter.”
Set in order – the goal of this steps is to effectively and efficiently store the information; we refer to this as “visual management.” We look at how to better organize the information for our teams to make better use of it.
Shine – with the clutter gone and storage organized, it is now important that everyone take ownership in the cleanliness of the “information area,” maintaining it on a regular basis
Standardize – once that everyone is involved, perhaps the most difficult phase in the 5S methodology, and also maybe the most important, is for the team to outline the Best Practices and implement them in their area of work.
Sustain – the final step is also the most challenging: remaining disciplined to sustain the changes made in the first 4 steps. This can be accomplished by putting a formal process in place, that includes regular communication, so that the employees are able to easily conform to the 5S procedures.
The 5S system is not necessarily complicated to understand; the challenges lie in successfully implementing and consistently following the steps. The 5S’s can also be applied to many other cases in software development, such as coding, testing, and deployment, but for us, it all starts with gathering the information from our partners.
In our future posts we will discuss each of these in depth.