Sunday, October 19, 2014

Shine! The third S of the 5S

(Seiso, 清掃, according to Wikipedia)

Other parts of this series

Cleanliness or shine?

According to Hirano the third pillar is called “cleanliness”, a term which doesn't help very much in clarifying the implications for the knowledge-worker or software-development organization.

Let's have another look at the article from Wikipedia.

  • Clean your workplace completely
  • Use cleaning as inspection
  • Prevent machinery and equipment deterioration
  • Keep workplace safe and easy to work
  • Can also be translated as "sweep"

Once again this seems easy – or at least obvious – when the workplace is a workbench, a car pit or any other environment where ‘real’ or physical dirt accumulates. But how do you attain cleanliness at the workplace of a knowledge-worker?

In my opinion, when your knowledge work involves computers, the sweeping might include:

  • Checking the local working copy of your source code control system for orphaned files
  • Removing temporary files
  • Removing unused build and configuration files
  • Deleting invalid contacts and obsolete phone numbers or addresses
  • Or even such mundane tasks as running anti-virus software regularly
  • Keeping you synced folders (e.g. Dropbox) synced
  • Keeping Backups
  • Removing unused branches in the source code control system

If your work also includes actual creation of code there usually is a lot of cleaning up to do at the end of a coding session. That cleaning up could include (but is not limited to) things like

  • Removing duplications
  • Removing experiments
  • Removing trace and debug statements that are no longer needed
  • Adding trace and debug statements for maintenance purposes

Even apart from work directly related to computers there is a lot of ‘sweeping’ possible:

  • Re-evaluting your planned work (e.g. backlog grooming in many scrum-inspired environments) – weed out the stuff you don't need anymore
  • Removing old versions of documents
  • Removing outdated links from the documentation (e.g. Wiki-pages)

And so on – just get rid of stuff that doesn't add value any more or is outdated. Having superfluous ‘things’ usually confuses people more than it helps.

What are your suggestions for sweeping the workplace of knowledge-workers?

Till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Straighten! The second S of the 5S

(Seiton, 整頓, according to Wikipedia)

I am still not convinced that it was a good idea to only use English words that start with an ‘s’ for all the pillars of the 5S-System in the Wikipedia (and some other) explanation of the concept.
According to Hirano, who wrote one of the defining books on 5S, the second pillar is called ‘orderliness’ which – in my opinion – is much easier to interpret for software development purposes.

Ideas from production (as quoted from Wikipedia)

  • Arrange all necessary items in order so they can be easily picked for use
  • Prevent loss and waste of time
  • Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items
  • Ensure first-come-first-serve basis
  • Make (the) workflow smooth and easy
  • Can also be translated as “set in order”

The difference between ‘sort’ and ‘straighten’ is very subtle - especially when we think about software-development or other knowledge work, but if we consider the alternative translations ‘organization’ and ‘orderliness’, the difference becomes much clearer in my opinion.

How to apply these ideas to software development

While ‘organization’ calls for the removal of unnecessary clutter (be it in your File-System, on your physical desktop, on your computer’s desktop or anywhere else) ‘orderliness’ goes a step further and requires us to set the things that are not unnecessary – one might say those items that are necessary – in a definitive, understandable, reproducible order.

Let‘s look at other options to bring more orderliness into software-development

One of the things I tend to see here is the “automate ruthlessly“ or “ubiquitous automation” concept. Or, as they put it in the old days:

  • The first time you do something, you just do it manually.
  • The second time you do something similar, you wince at the repetition, but you do it anyway.
  • The third time you do something similar, you automate.

But just using the tools of the trade in a more orderly fashion can make a huge difference. Using tags to categorize files (if your file-system supports such a thing), using a defined pattern for file names (not only for source code) and generally not only weeding out stuff but also ordering your tools and material falls into this category.

As James O. Coplien quotes in the foreword to the clean code book there is the old American (?) saying of “A place for everything and everything in its place” which really captures the whole concept very well for me.

What I propose in addition to Cope‘s explanation of this concept (a piece of code should be where you expect to find it) is to apply this idea to everything related to the value chain – from the first idea to the end-user actually interacting with the capability of the system that represents this idea.

  • Where do the requirements belong?
  • Where do the acceptance criteria live?
  • Where would I find the swahili language translation of the help-files
  • Where is machine specific configuration information placed? And how about user specific configuration?
  • and so on...

Now what would you propose to do in our day-to-day work to get our software-development more ‘orderly’?

Till next time
  Michael Mahlberg