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Lean Thinking

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  • Lean Thinking

    I've been a student of GTD for a couple years now. Definitely still consider myself a novice. I think I have the basic methodology down but been working on understanding the philosophy of it better. Just finished "Lean Thinking" by Womack and Jones recently to learn more about running an efficient company and now trying to grasp what implications "lean thinking" has for my personal GTD.

    Anyone out there familiar w/ the principle? Anyone tried to apply it to GTD? I have a feeling some of the philosophy is the same - but can't wrap my head around it just yet b/c somethings don't seem aligned.

    For example - kanban (wikipedia link) is a concept of using a board and cards to monitor specific tasks flowing thru a system. In a GTD sense, it could be a NOW box, preceded by a Next Action box.

    When Now is empty - pull a card form the Next Action box. The two methodologies seem aligned so far. Where it gets a little confusing for me is this concept of "pull vs. push".

    In lean thinking - the boxes operate in "Pull" form - that is, the NOW box dictates when something is taken from the Next Action box. Nothing is ever done in Next Action unless NOW specifies it to.

    In GTD though, the concept seems to be push base? That is, we fill the Next Action box first - and then it gets "pushed" to NOW whenever it's empty (based on context).

    Am I understanding the two methodologies wrong or are they truly misaligned principles?

  • #2
    I think you try to overcomplicate two simple systmens

    A kanban is used as a signal to put something in motion, most of the time triggered when the former thing in motion has undergone its processing.

    Similair, you can define within GTD spare time as a kanban. You've just finished your former action, you do not have to attend a meeting or do any fixed work, so you "pull" a action from you next action list.
    Remember, any action requiring completion on a specific moment or date needs allotted time for it, thus becomes fixed work (push).

    And as you want to make sure you reach your goals, you should "plan" your project and actions (prioritise) wisely, which can be seen as load leveling (create a personal heijunka if you like).

    As lean is all about eliminating the 7 deadly wastes (or 8 if you like), so is GTD. Would be a nice conversation though, how to compare both philosophies .
    I personally eliminated all overproduction (made decisions about my commitments), keep inventory as minimal as possible (empty inbox, little work-in-progress, purging files, etc), eliminate idle/waiting time (use an appropriate context list to do something), eliminate movement (of thoughts) (clear agenda's, waiting for, rethinking), overprocessing (desired outcome thinking, do not more, certainly not less), defects (desired outcome thinking, agreements with others), etc


    • #3
      Kanban is a tool to show problems

      Hello, I'm from a Lena background as well. I'm a bit nervous as to personal kanbans. People seem to use it just like a work signal (thus the "todo" part looks like a list of Next Actions whose context is that of where the wall supporting the kanban board is located.

      But the real goal of a kanban is to spot when you :
      -have no signal card and your preceding work is finished: production flow is broken before you
      -have another card arriving and your current work is not finished (you're not keeping pace and you probably need to improve your own work or some problem occured that prevented you from doing your work at the required pace - in any case, there's a problem to solve).

      I've often thought of the possible relations between Lean and GTD. I've mainly made the link between horizons of focus and policy deployment (hoshin kanri).

      As to the preceding post regarding the 7 waste, you could add that by freeing your mind, GTD releases your creativity, which is the 8th waste when unused!


      • #4
        Originally posted by stampf View Post
        As to the preceding post regarding the 7 waste, you could add that by freeing your mind, GTD releases your creativity, which is the 8th waste when unused!
        I see stuff in your mind also as inventory you don't want to carry.

        As for the kanbans, I do not use this concept for GTD, but I think you can see an empty time slot as a kanban. Each time you finished an action, you pick a bin from the action list to fill the time slot. Is there no next action, then your flow is broken and you need to review you horizons of focus. The same account when you cannot keep up the pace of next actions arriving (withdrawal comes too fast, people are pulling too hard on your time slots).


        • #5
          I like the association you have made.

          I like LEAN although personally I am much more a fan of LEAN Six Sigma as an implementation theory because it goes beyond the almost entirely linear of LEAN which is firmly rooted in production line methodolgy and is certainly under-equipped for knowledge work.

          However, I digress. My main point is that from that particular point of view, GTD is a LEAN production methodology for knowledge work.

          For me the fact that David was, (estimate), in his 50s when he published GTD, and had a lot of managment consulting experience and then some behind him when his codified the GTD system, is really apparent because so much of GTD methodology can be traced back into earlier management theory - but with elegantly appropriate application to the practical tasks that we all face in our lives.


          • #6
            Both Six Sigma and Lean (and also Lean Six Sigma) are based on earlier theories. In fact, they're just a collection of tools/methodologies which have a certain synergy when bundled for a certain application. Give it a fancy name and you can sell books and consultancy.
            When you increase the abstraction level of each improvement philosophy (and yes, I see GTD as an improvement philosophy), you will see there aren't many differences and the higher philosophy should be tool agnostic.


            • #7
              Kanban = flow

              Thanks all for the thoughts. We've adopted the kanban system into our GTD practice - and it really is about flow - or as stampf articulated it - it's a tool to reveal problems in our work flow. It's been helpful so far to keep pace, communicate activity to other teammates and most importantly - point out when there's too much or too little in the system. This makes for a better weekly review process.

              I think the main benefit of adopting the kanban system reveals itself in team dynamics - where someone can quickly take a look at the system and see 1. what each person is doing 2. what is left to do and 3. progress as a whole.