Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Applying Toyota Production System's Principles to IT Project Management
For those of us who worked in the IT sector it is not surprising that IT projects enjoy only 20% success rate. Successful projects are the projects that are delivered on time and IT projects are rarely delivered on time. After learning about Toyota’s lean manufacturing I couldn’t help but wonder whether these techniques could be applied to an IT project.
This is when I came across an interesting IEEE paper on how a 9 person development team employed by BBC worldwide applied lean idea behind Toyota production system to their development project. The development team at BBC worldwide employed the lean methods including visual management, team-based problem solving, smaller batch sizes, and statistical process control to improve software development. The team adapted lean principles in the following ways:
· The team started by drawing all stages of development life cycle (value stream maps) onto the kanban boards and recorded the work at each stage on cards and placed on the boards. This exercise made the team realize that there was more Work in Progress (WIP) and more bottlenecks of work than previously realized and therefore put restrictions on WIP allowed at each stage. The team then kept the levels of (WIP) like requirements, designs, and code, as low as possible in order to create continuous ﬂow and increase problem visibility. These measures helped in improving the process and eliminate waste.
· The team pulled work into software development system when they had capacity to work on it. They worked with the users upstream to smooth future demands and Level out the workload. Also, after the team realized that poor defect fixing hindered productivity and product reliability it tried to build a culture of stopping to ﬁx problems
· The team actively looked for “blockers” and insisted that all work was handled through the agreed process. Just like there are andon lights displaying the status of production at any time in Toyota production lines, Information radiators and kanban boards were placed around the work space to ensure transparency of project progress which promoted self-managing among the team members.
All these measures implemented over a period of 12-month, helped improve lead time to deliver software by 37%, consistency of delivery by 47%, and defects reported by customers fell 24%.Overall , this is a great illustration of how principles from one industry can be successfully applied to another. But, the question is whether it is possible to apply these techniques to all IT projects of different levels of complexity and team sizes ?