[Bernardo Heynemann] Dream Team Part VIII – Autonomation

Introduction

Jidoka, also known as “intelligent automation” or “automation with a human touch”, is lean’s way of automating repetitive tasks.

This time we join the INews team as they try to define how far to go with automating or not repetitive processes.

Autonomation

John – Hey guys! How was christmas?
Jane – Pretty good! Yours?
John – Really cool. What about the rest of you?
All – It was great!
Christian – We’ve been talking a lot about lean concepts and I’m not that familiar with lean methodology. Whenever I don’t know something I yearn to learn it. I’ve spent all my free time in the last weeks studying it. One thing that comes over and over is autonomation. That is a kick-ass concept!
Jane – Autonomation?
John – Yeah Jane. Autonomation means automation with intelligence.
Jane – What do you mean “with intelligence”?
John – Well, machines lack intelligence, right? That’s why it’s called artificial intelligence. So automation with intelligence means automation with humans involved. It means automating to become more efficient. It means automating well-known repetitive tasks.
Jane – Oh. I see.
Susan – I think we do that already, right? Our build is automated, for one. Oh! Our tests are automated as well! Hmm… I see your point! We could build and test our app ourselves. We just automated it so we are more effective. We didn’t replace ourselves for a machine. We are using it to help us!
John – Exactly. Still, I think we are not aggressive enough with autonomation. Susan, when we finish stories, what do you do to help us accept them?
Susan – I verify the results versus my mock screens to see that you got the proper sizes, margins, etc.
John – And that’s pretty repetitive, isn’t it? That’s something we could come up with a creative way of automating. Joseph, you perform a lot of exploratory testing as well don’t you?
Joseph – Yes I do, but how can you automate exploratory testing, which is by definition human?
John - Hmm… We can’t automate exploratory testing. What we can do is automate the tests you perform every time. We could come up with some strategy to record the tests you do and automate those. This way, every time you did exploratory testing we would end up with a richer testing suite.
Joseph – I see. Well, I guess we could be more aggressive about autonomation.
Christian – So it seems like a team value, doesn’t it? Automating things to improve our effectiveness.
Joseph – Indeed it does, Christian. Indeed it does.

Conclusion

There’s a big emphasis on not automating things with the intent of replacing humans. The goal of jidoka is to make humans more effective and aid them in detecting problems early and often.

Whenever something can be automated to improve the team’s capacity to respond to change, it should be. The automation should not happen before the actual way of doing things is well-known to the people involved. This is paramount so the automation has the proper goal (as outlined above).