Drawing your process. Backwards.

Draw me a process

Rob and I made a small, but useful change to the “I’m not a Bottleneck! I’m a free man!” session at Agile North. During the second half of the session, we ask the participants to draw their process. Many participants have difficulty doing this. Where do you begin? Where do you end? Where are the boundaries? What to include, what to exclude?

At least now we know where to start…

Start at the end

My idea of funWe now tell the participants to start with the customer. Our work only generates “throughput” (value to the company) when the customer pays us in some way for something of value we give them. So, start by drawing the customer.

From the customer, work backwards. What does the customer receive, that they value? A piece of running software? Where does that come from? And so on, up the value stream. We noticed that the participants didn’t get stuck drawing their process. It did take some effort to get started. We are so used to thinking forward. It may take a while before you switch from “The customer gives requirements” to “The customer receives running, valuable features”.

The idea comes from the practice of Lean consultants to walk and map the value stream backwards, from the customer to the source materials. This helps you keep the customer perspective and see opportunities for “Pull” scheduling.

In Will Self’s novel “My idea of fun“, the main character and his evil guru (“The Fat Controller”) take a mental voyage from a cotton shirt they bought, all the way back to the cotton pickers near the Nile. Will Self invented the term “Retroscending” for this exercise. Next time, you think about your software process, try to retroscend.

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