Monday, May 13, 2013

LEAN is not a way to lose weight. Or is it?

When I was first introduced with the principles of Lean thinking, my coach started off by making it clear we are not talking about a way to lose weight. A few years later, I would like to revisit and challenge that statement. Having learned more about the Kanban principles since, I think there are clear similarities.

Since the eating process is generally defined by our biology, I'll focus on flow

The starting point is late 2011, when I realized that unless I seriously change something I will continue accumulating weight. During my adult life I was always somewhat overweight, but at that point my weight was already a cause of grief and low self esteem. 

Establishing Pull

We often eat for all kinds of reasons: schedule, habit, availability, social circumstances, boredom. None of those is directly related to a biological need: first comes one of those reasons, next we eat. A Push system. The result is Fat, the biological equivalent of Inventory. This is where we store over-production. 

The natural Pull system is the Hunger mechanism. Our body needs more energy, so our minds signal "eat now". 
I don't know how it is for others, but I find it hard to free myself from all the social and psychological layers hiding and tempering with the basic hunger mechanism, so I needed to establish an alternative pull system.

To create pull, I needed to adjust the calorie intake to be just enough for the energy I spend. Since I didn't plan to rely on hunger, I needed a forecast of the energy demand, and a way to adjust the estimation.

Smartphones are great. A calorie calculator app provided an easy way to estimate a daily calorie budget, to visualize my calorie intake and my weight reduction rate.   

Keeping within budget meant I have an explicit policy. I would need to plan what I eat, and choose between alternatives in a conscious way.   

Seek Perfection

Once the first signs of success started to show, and some eating habits were established, I was ready to change further aspects of my diet. Here are a couple of examples.

While tracking my calorie consumption against a budget, I noticed it was much harder for me to keep to the plan on weekends and holidays. I realized that some habits are harder to change, but they surfaced only after I got the work days under control. For example, I didn't really have to take a serving of every single dish on the table at family dinners. It is not really an insult to the host.  

At some point I started adding sport to my schedule. It serves a few purposes contributing to value:  
  • Increasing the spent energy (while keeping the intake) gets rid of fat
  • More muscle mass burns more energy, not just during exercise 
  • Sport is another way to support the value of sustaining myself - a stronger body is valuable to me not only because it burns more calories

What Helped

Two things that supported this journey. 
  1. Intention - I realized being overweight wasn't acceptable to me anymore while preparing to hold a workshop about Christopher Avery's Responsibility Process. One of the things he teaches is getting clarity on what I want. This was a strong motivator for me.
  2. Visibility - I happened to get my first smartphone at the same time, on which I zealously logged everything I ate for a whole year. This made me very aware of the impact of each type and amount of food on my calorie-budget
I managed to lose 18 kg (around 40 pounds) within a year. 
I feel much better, can run faster and longer, and I'm proud of my achievement.

I can't say I decided to lose weight by applying lean principles, but I'm quite sure those principles were there to support me. Elements such as sustainable pace, explicit policies, visualization, continuous improvement, and discipline are common to both.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Agile Israel 2013

I thought to start blogging with a totally different post, but attending this conference was a good opportunity to jump right in, without a perfect first post :) 
I think this is going to fuel some future posts.

I've been attending AgileSparks conferences and courses in the past few years. There's always something new and thought provoking. Here are my initial notes from this year's event.
Over all, attendance was impressive, which caused some logistic difficulties (like missing chairs and some mess around lunch). Being of the twitting kind, lack of WIFI was a fail (especially blocking international participants from twitting), though I know vendors set ridiculously high price tags for this.

There was a rich, 4 track program, so obviously I had some hard choices to make.. here are my highlights.

Bob Marshall (@flowchainsenseiblog) gave the opening keynote, introducing rightshifting. The talk itself had a great start - I personally loved his guiding principle of "Joy for all". In my workplace we have the official "core values" (Trust, Win mentality, Communication, Responsibility and Innovation) and I often half jokingly suggest "Fun" is missing or should just replace the others... However, as the talk developed and time ran out, a long list of 18 approaches to organizational cultural transformation went by so fast with no context or advice which sort of felt the whole keynote didn't satisfy my expectation of a focused, practical, concept. 
During the talk, and later in a dedicated session, Bob introduced Nonviolent Communication (NVC). This was interesting, and correlated very strongly to me with the work of Christopher Avery on personal Responsibility and it's application to support and drive organizational change.  

Danko (@DankoAgile) talked about Planning - he can definitely hold a crowd, but the most of it was targeted for beginners. Still, some aspects to consider improving, and some hints to consider as potential future state such as blitz planning. I was missing the question - do you really need those estimates (Gil Broza got to it later..) and the topic of understanding the stories and preparing for the sprint was left out. 
While I don't think he mentioned it, for more on these hinted new ideas he wrote the free book AdvanScrum.

Naresh Jain (@nashjain, who is) talked about dealing with uncertainty in a complex adaptive world. The focus was to highlight how biased our minds are towards (false sense of) certainty, and overview of Dave Snowden's Cynefin model. He's suggesting certainty is not an option and we'd better get used to being more much empirical about things. For example, copying a process is like copying a haircut - you might end up looking stupid. Some parts very amusingly delivered - well done.

To hear Naresh, I had to skip Yuval Yeret's (@yuvalyeret) talk, which he blogged about here. Sounds like lot's of good stuff... Alas, the road not taken.

Rafi Bryl from SAP introduced Design Thinking and Lean Canvas. He compared D.T. with Lean, explained the key parts and origin of D.T, and the concept and application of lean canvas. An important take away is that the real innovation lies not in a product/technology but in the overall business model (great examples with Xerox and Sony betamax). Good intro to topics partially new for me.

Tony Gilling from Rally covered SAFe as a framework to scale agile. On one hand it seems quite straight forward, on the other hand could be too rigid for various organizations... Sorry to say this, but it felt like promoting consulting services rather than teaching something new.

Closing keynote by Gil Broza (@gilbroza) shared 10 ways (or, lessons) to put people before process. To be precise: Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools, as the intentionally first value in the Agile Manifesto. Gil covered patterns and anti-patterns with potential outcomes of following each. Once the slides are published, I recommend taking a good look for any manager - read it slowly, and check yourselves.

Later a small group had some good discussions in the Lean Coffee session. One of the participants asked:
"Is Agile going soft?"
He was referring to the relatively many sessions dealing with the "soft skills"/human aspects, rather than tools, metrics, etc. Just look at the keynote speakers: Gil, author of "Human side of Agile" and Bob with the soft-as-soft-gets nonviolent communication. I personally liked this focus a lot, as I strongly relate to the underlying ethics agile is built upon as personal motivation.

If you attended other sessions or can add to those I commented on, you are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section.