Adapting to COVID-19: How to construct a “Digital Genba”
Find ways to spend time with teams on a recurring basis, while being non-intrustive, helpful, and efficient.
In this world of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, the way we collaboration to get work done is changing in front of our eyes. The place where work happens is seeming to standardize through video conferences and in collaboration tools like Slack or MS Teams.
It’s not really such a different place for software developers, but even then, this is a different place for the people who come to see the work being done. If you are one of these people – you play a leadership or a customer role – you are very likely to have found a new way to get out and see what is going on.
So in this changing digital landscape, how do we bring people in? As leaders, how do you go and see and really feel whether something feels good?
Well, this pattern of thought has brought me to want to reimagine and maybe reconstruct one of the fundamental concepts from lean – the “Gemba” walk. Genba is a Japanese word meaning “the real or actual place.” The idea comes from manufacturing and is a technique to have leaders walk the actual floor of the factory where the people they manage are working. By doing so, the idea is that you can see for yourself when things are going well – and, you can actually engage your other senses to perceive more quickly when something is out of place, or in lean terms, when something is “wasteful.”
For as long as we are separated, and very likely after this virus is over and these (probably) more efficient ways of working stick, we won’t be able to do the genba walk in the same way.
We need to approximate a “Digital Genba.”
Linguistically, I know that doesn’t work, but stick with me…
As a company, you are likely reorganizing how your value stream operates and adapting many of your processes and policies right now. As you do so, you’re probably thinking in great detail about how to enable teams to do work and promote the visibility of that work. This might mean things like asking teams to operate their daily scrum in an open forum or visualize work on digital Kanban boards. It’s going to mean finding ways to spend time with teams on a recurring basis while being non-intrustive and creating trust. It’s going to mean creating team, program and company-wide working agreements and training everyone on what good looks like. Do not underestimate how big a change this is going to be for some people.
Maybe you already have some or all of these things in place, but I’d be willing to bet that spending some focused time re-thinking what it takes to operate with this way of working as the norm with intentionality – taking time to engage your people to hear about what they like or don’t like – what feels good and what doesn’t so much – would see your company through on the other side with a united sense of purpose and togetherness that hey – we could really all use right about now.
I just finished up a virtual PI Planning with one of my clients and while we executed the logistics of it well, our tools and processes were less than ideal. We went from almost no video chatting to a lot, and a few of us really had to lead the way by being willing to keep the camera on most of the time. Everyone is at a different place in their journey and in a way, we are all taking steps forward together right now. So, I am curious what challenges and successes you have seen and what ways you are bringing in teams, partners and customers to this way of working with you.
I’d love to compile some of these successes and be able to share those out, so if you wouldn’t mind sharing – please comment below!
Thank you, and stay safe!
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