Mike MacDonagh's Blog

Somewhere in the overlap between software development, process improvement and psychology

Understand the software value chain by walking it

There’s no better way to understand something than by actually giving it a go. If you want to know what writing a particular programming language is like you need to try it. If you want to know what kung fu is like watching a video won’t help, you need to try it.

If you want to really understand the software value chain in your organisation drawing diagrams in an ivory tower isn’t going to help, you need to get out there and “Go and see”.

In Steve Handy’s blog on Scaling Software Agility he talks about applying some of the thinking from the Lean school of thought to “go and see”, observing the value chain by actually physically following it.

  • Identify a new piece of work and follow it through the delivery chain
  • Attend every meeting, track the activities and note how long it’s static.
  • Don’t attempt to fix it during this period of observation, don’t criticise, just watch and learn.

I think there’s some real value here, there’s something quite simple and powerful about physically walking the walk of a piece of work through the software value chain. Doing so will make some problems, blockages and issues blindingly obvious – processes and organisational structures that seemed to make sense on someone’s bit of paper will just not make sense.

Experiencing the value chain in a very physical way promotes professional mindfulness and will clearly identify waste. I think this is a great way of putting common sense back in to software development.

I call this Go See, and it’s the most effective form of measurement for software development.

 

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2 responses to “Understand the software value chain by walking it

  1. Arran Hartgroves February 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Seems like one of the simple things that software teams just never do, like retrospectives…

    I wonder if they’re is too much focus on technical know how and not enough time allowed for, and spent on, getting the simple things in place. This should drive University course curriculum in future…

    My top areas would be:

    The value chain
    Understanding capacity and speed
    Continuously review and improvement
    Knowing when we are done
    Road mapping to see what’s next and when it all ends!
    Enjoying your work!

  2. mikemacd February 3, 2013 at 1:34 am

    I agree, I think there’s a a lot of technical bamboozling which detracts from common sense. I increasingly think we’d be better off by simplifying it all 🙂

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