3 Lean Tips for ITSM

Lean Tips
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While Lean might have originated in manufacturing and is commonly described as a manufacturing approach, many of its concepts apply to IT service management (ITSM). You might have already read or heard about something called Lean IT. If not, no matter, this article describes three Lean concepts that can be applied to ITSM – helping ITSM teams with their work tasks and enhancing the quality of leadership.

A little Lean history

Lean is decades old, coming to prominence via the Toyota Production System in Japan. This has two core pillars:

  1. Respect for people, and
  2. continuous improvement.

Both of which dovetail well with the principles of ITSM.

This article by @Joe_the_IT_Guy describes three Lean concepts that can be applied to ITSM – helping ITSM teams with their work tasks and enhancing the quality of leadership. #ITSM #Lean Click To Tweet

Three key Lean concepts

These two core Lean pillars are underpinned by three working methods – or three key Lean concepts – that your organization can incorporate into its ITSM workflows to deliver a better way of working for everyone:

  1. Pull the Andon
  2. Genchi Genbutsu (Gen-Chee Gen-boot-sue) and Gemba
  3. Nemawashi (neh-ma-wa-shee).

Each of these Lean tips is covered in the next three sections.

Lean tip #1: Pull the Andon

In ancient Japanese culture, an Andon was a traditional lamp made of paper pulled over bamboo. It’s simply a light source. Now, with Lean manufacturing, the Andon has been reimagined as a lighted notification, or warning alert, to management – or workers – that an issue is adversely affecting production quality or causing a process problem.

In the early days of manufacturing, a worker would activate the Andon light by pulling a cord. Hence, the term “Pull the Andon.” The idea is that pulling the Andon stops the production line so the process or quality issue can be addressed.

For ITSM, both event management and incident management can be aligned with this concept, because both processes – or practices in ITIL 4 terminology – are designed to “stop the line” and “fix the issue.” There are other ITSM use cases. For example, you could have an Andon pull for meetings or design sessions.

Pull the Andon, Genchi Genbutsu and Gemba, and Nemawashi... How can these Lean concepts be applied to ITSM? Here @Joe_the_IT_Guy explains. #Lean #ITSM Click To Tweet

Lean tip #2: Genchi Genbutsu and Gemba

Taiichi Ohno, who’s cited as founding the Toyota Production System, also created the concept of Genchi Genbutsu and Gemba. Where, when teaching new engineers the Toyota Production System, he would take them to the shop floor, draw a chalk circle on the floor, and make the engineers stand in the circle to observe the production flows around them.

This taught the engineers the need to go to the source of the work to truly understand what’s really happening. The engineers were expected to “get their boots on and go” (Genchi Genbutsu) and experience the issue and/or propose change in the location of the work (Gemba).

Applying this to ITSM, if people are designing a process design or if there’s a hard-to-diagnose incident, then go see how work is currently done or the issue, respectively. Gather first-hand knowledge of how, when, where, and why work is done, or the issue occurs.

Lean tip #3: Nemawashi

In the western world, it’s often common to hold large group meetings to discuss issues. However, sometimes these meetings have negative outcomes. For example, battle lines are drawn, feelings are hurt, and people’s time wasted.

However, in Japanese work culture, many one-to-one meetings are preferred. With big meetings only ever held to ratify important decisions. So, a Japanese worker never attends a big meeting without already knowing the answer to the decision. This is accomplished via Nemawashi, with a loose translation “prepare the ground for planting.”

Discover how Lean concepts can help you and your colleagues in your daily ITSM work with this article by @Joe_the_IT_Guy. #Lean #ITSM Click To Tweet

So, you go to key stakeholders and discuss the idea. You listen to concerns. You accommodate these in your proposal. You make the effort to grow consensus. The big meeting only then occurs once everyone is backing the proposal. If you are struggling to gain acceptance, then you either continue to work with stakeholders to adjust the proposal or drop the idea. The point being, you don’t proceed on a big change, new implementation, new service, or any other important ITSM task unless there’s support for the proposal. For example, when wanting to change a process, the IT process owner meets with the business process owner, the leads of the IT processes that may be impacted, and other stakeholders such as process operators. Once the change has a consensus, it can be progressed via change enablement.

These Lean tips or concepts will help you and your colleagues in your daily work. Please note though that, as with any new approach, it will take time to mature. If you’d like to read more about blending Agile, Lean, and ITSM, then this blog is for you.

Joe The IT Guy is a native New Yorker who loves everything connected to IT service management (ITSM). He's a passionate blogger and twitter addict, and is also the resident IT guy at SysAid Technologies.

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