Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bigger and smaller pieces in the flow - think "Heijunka"

One of the always recurring discussions when talking about flow-based software development processes is the question of the appropriate size of the work-items.

The lean production concept of "leveling" or "heijunka" addresses exactly this questions, but it is sometimes a bit hard to translate lean concepts from production into concepts that are suitable for knowledge workers.

The basic idea – as described nicely in this wikipedia article – is to make sure that the amount of large and small pieces in the systems "levels out" so that an even flow is possible for all sizes of work-items.

To instantiate such a process in knowledge work we are once again faced with one of our basic challenges – to create a balanced mix of small and big work-items we have to know their size beforehand. And usually we don't. But this basic conundrum still is manageable if we allow for some corrections further down the way.

Nonetheless the work-items have to be analyzed at least to a certain degree before they can be fitted into different "Size-Boxes" (if you're emulating some kind of heijunka box).

Once you do have the different sized work-items though it is possible to employ different methods to manage the flow or distribute the work between different swim-lanes.

So - do you have some approach to "heijunka" in place?

Till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

No comments: