IT Automation needs lean thinking

Virtually every company tries to implement lean principles. While everybody is aware of techniques like Kanban and Kaizen it looks like only a few really succeed with it.

One of our most used tools on a CLI is less. But why is it called less rather than sophisticated next level pager.exe? Because it was created as an alternative to more. Less is more perfectly describes the mindset one must posess to succeed with IT Automation and what could be a better environment than a Linux shell?

Does it make sense to use heavyweight tools like VisualStudio or IntelliJ if we can simply achieve the same thing with vim? Do we need 100 Apps on our smartphone to organize our day if a sheet of paper can do the same job? Do we constantly have to check our emails, Slack messages and Whatsapp while we are trying to concentrate on some demanding task? Do we need fancy looking Excel Sheets and Word documents if a csv and ASCII file can communicate the same kind of information.

Lean thinking means to focus on what is really important in life. In order to do that we first have to make a clear decision what that is. While everyone know that intuitively most people fail to think about that consciously. The hard part about that decision is not to decide what we want. The hard part is do be clear about what price we have to pay for it. Getting away with all the bloat, physically, mentally and emotionally requires a lot of work. For the rest of our lives we constantly have to question our outcomes and make adjustments every single day.

Here is an excerpt from a job offer for a Senior Lean Manager I found today.

Discipline: Technical Operations

Your responsibility:
"Working out strategies to increase the productivity within our production facility"
"Analyze processes"
"Conduct meetings and workshops"
"Support the implementation"
"Management responsiblity within a small team"

Your skills:
"Business studies"
"Certified for Lean methods"

This job offer tells a complete story about the whole company. Assume there is a DevOps Engineer that wants to try a new tool. Do you think he has to get a permission from his “Head of…” first? Does it look like workers in the production facility are free to question the implemented strategy that got imposed on them? What might happen if the Senior Lead Manager tells everyone in that company that Lean is not a Technical Operations Discipline and decides that rather than creating a strategy he tries to help people finding their true potential? Does that company really apply lean thinking?

Lean thinking does not mean to focus on how we do something. Focussing on how to do something is useless until we know why we do it. Lean thinking is not a method. It is a way of living.