In Part 2 of this series, we looked at the effects of three additional types of software development waste — Motion, Defects, and Extra Processing. In the final installment of this series, let’s examine the last two types of waste — Waiting and Transportation — and see what can be done to identify and reduce (or eliminate) them. These two types of waste are often very closely related.
Transportation waste is accumulated when either a person involved with a project or a feature of a project is transitioning to another state. For a team member, this might involve switching roles on the team, being a part of more than one team and having to switch between them, and so on.
As an example, if a developer has to work on two 2-week projects, they would be more efficient working on one to completion first and then the second, as opposed to simultaneously working on both. The transition time will ensure that the latter approach takes more than 4 weeks.
For a feature, transportation waste occurs when there is a state change, from requirement to development, from development to testing, from testing to deployment, and more. These are necessary steps. However, clear communication and collaboration can simplify each hand-off, so any discrepancies in understanding can be resolved before more work is done.
Your goal is to have a well-defined hand-off process that includes all the information that is required to complete the transition. This can include documentation, reports, wire frames, prototypes, and/or working software. A visual, or better yet, a behavioral representation can remove any differences in understanding between the expected and actual product. Sometimes a brief conversation can ensure the transition goes smoothly. Remember that the hand-off is like a relay race: during the transition, both sides are responsible for making sure the baton is not dropped.
Waiting occurs when someone in the process chain has completed all current work, and there is currently no incoming tasks to work on. In general, this is an indication of waste occurring either in the transport to this state or in one of the prior steps.
If you notice a lot of waiting, it could be an indicator that something is causing problems upstream in the process. See if there are other types of waste that can be removed to make the flow more efficient.
In the meantime, ensure that the person waiting has an opportunity to provide value in other ways. Maybe they can provide help upstream to alleviate the bottleneck while the process is optimized, or they can spend time looking for efficiencies or streamlining their own process.
Try to prevent the person waiting from partaking in tasks that cause extra processing or over production.
This concludes our examination of the seven most common types of waste. In many ways, we aren’t covering new ground here. This is a path that is already well trod. However, it’s easy to get in a rut when you are comfortable with your current processes. There are many things that are done so often they are no longer questioned. It’s important to continually look at ways to improve how you can deliver. Hopefully, this series of articles stimulates the pursuit of ongoing growth.
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