[admin] Lean: Go-Kart Exercise

Last week I attended the Lean Thinking And Practices For IT Leaders workshop organised by ThoughtWorks. There we had the presence of Mary and Tom Poppendieck, my colleague Jason Yip and two consultants from KM&T. One of the things that I really liked about it was that it wasn’t only driven by presentations, but also by a lot of practical exercises, so we could get a better feeling of the benefits of applying these thinking and practices. One of the exercises we did was the Go-Kart game.

How it works?

Two teams are created (alpha and beta), and each one has to split up into five groups with the given responsibilities: disassembly, transportation, assembly, observation and time-keeping. They are given the task to completely disassemble, transport and re-assemble a Go-Kart as quick as possible, in a safe manner, while the observer write notes about problem points. The whole process is done twice, so that you can run it once, analyse the process used, based on feedback provided by the observer, and think of ways to improve it, before running the second time.

First Attempt

In our first attempt, all we knew was that we had to split the team into five groups. We had no idea of the necessity of a detailed process, but doing all the phases as fast as possible. Vikky, our team leader, proposed the creation of a manual with the detailed steps needed to assemble the kart, to be used by the assembly team. And that’s what we did!

Our marks

Planing time: 10 minutes
Disassembling time: 5 minutes
Assembling time: 12 minutes
Total time: 14 minutes 20 seconds
Quality of delivered product: OK

Problem Points (Gathered by observers)

  • The team took seven minutes to get organised and start doing something.
  • No leadership nomination. Vikky, one of the team members, had to auto-niminate herself as the team leader.
  • Disassembly group didn’t notice differences on the washers and on the bolts, causing uncertainty and waste of time in the assembly group.
  • Bottleneck on the transportation of the parts from one station to another. No one from disassembly group to pick up the parts, making the transporter keep holding them, stopping the process flow.
  • The components needed to assemble specific parts of the car were not delivered together, making the assembly group wait for the remaining ones.
  • Some members in the assembly group were in a rush to finish fast and ignored the manual, resulting in some mistakes.

Second Attempt

Before starting the second attempt we got together to discuss the problem points, coming up with some ideas of improvements. Here they are:

Improvements

  • We nominated people on both disassembly and assembly groups to be in charge of handing and picking up parts from the transporter.
  • We decided to hand the parts related to each other in chunks, so that they could be assembled straight away, eliminating the time wasted waiting for remaining parts.
  • We nominated specialists for roles such as assembling the wheels, etc.
  • We added one more member to the transportation group, to get rid of the bottleneck.

Instead of spending a long time planning, we did it the agile way, highlighting only things we knew at the time, very quickly, and running through, spiking and checking if we were actually carrying out with the improvements, before doing the official attempt. We found some problems, adjusted to them and immediately got organised for the second attempt.

Our marks

Planing time: 10 minutes
Disassembling time: 1 minute 50 seconds
Assembling time: 2 minutes 33 seconds
Total time: 3 minutes 45 seconds
Quality of delivered product: OK

Click here to see some photos of our team during the exercise.

Conclusion

Lean advocates that you should pursue perfection when improving your process - aiming to reduce effort, time, space, cost and mistakes - and I learnt that this applies to any organisation, of any size. Thus, from the process used on this game, collaboration, self-organisation, rapid feedback contributed a lot to our improvement, helping us to eliminate waste.

So, what could you do for your organisation?

Take a step back, take a look at the big picture of how things work in your company and ask yourself questions such as: How do we deliver? Does it takes longer to test and deploy our system than to develop it? Who do we depend on to put the system onto production? What is causing a bottleneck? What could I do to change this scenario? Answer these questions (or others you make up) and think of improvements.