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Lean and Accelerate: Delivering Value as an Engineering Leader

You may have heard of Lean principles such as "deliver in small batches," "reduce cycle time," or "minimize work in progress," but the reasoning behind them may feel a little vague. They may feel intuitively right, or you've noticed they just work, or we do them because we're told to. But where did these principles come from and why do they work?  

Pulling from the excellent books, '’The Principles of Product Development Flow' by Donald G. Reinertsen and 'Accelerate' by Nicole Forsgren PhD , Jez Humble , et al., I will walk through an overview of the actual science and math behind these and other key lean principles. I will be going into topics such as the cost of delay, the importance of visualizing and managing queues, and the problems of working at full utilization. I will also offer powerful techniques for managing work in progress, prioritizing work, and quickly reacting to bottlenecks in your delivery pipeline.  

With this information in hand, you will come away with more conviction to advocate for and implement these principles and practices in your workplace. You will also be able to demonstrate to your leadership why these changes are important and how they will have a direct impact on employee engagement and morale, as well as the bottom line.

Main Takeaways

1 Hear why Lean principles help.

2 Find out how to convince others in your organization to implement Lean.

I'm familiar with Accelerate, with Lean principles. Why should I come to your talk?

I'll be focusing mostly on the Lean aspects of Accelerate and why the authors consider Lean to be such an important part of software delivery performance. I will be delving into the math and theory behind these principles, making it more clear why they work so well. 

A lot of us have played around with Lean, and we've seen it work. But sometimes it's hard to convince management or product to invest in making the changes needed to apply these principles. So if you can demonstrate that you can actually deliver value faster and more effectively when you apply these principles, even if they seem counterintuitive for a lot of people, I think you'll have better luck being able to implement these practices back at work.

When you say you're going to delve into math and theory, can you give me an example of what that might look like in the talk?

Well, for example, I'm going to show that a key aspect of delivering value is avoiding delays because there's a cost to delay. Often when we're thinking about prioritizing how we work, we don't think about the impact of delays. I'll talk a lot about queues and queuing theory because queues are the biggest contributor to delays in a system that's trying to deliver value. I'll demonstrate how you can manage queues through some of these Lean principles, using techniques such as small batches and minimizing progress, and use the math and theory to underscore how effective they are.

Who is the core audience?

I'm thinking more of a team lead architect because often they're the ones who tend to think about these principles more deeply, because they're somewhat technical and math oriented and they're often the ones that have to drive change in their organization. I also think product and management would benefit, but it depends on the kind of manager, whether you have a more technical manager or process oriented engineering or product manager or if it's someone who's oriented more towards understanding people and users.

TLDR;, somebody comes to your talk, they're going to walk away with what?

A much deeper understanding of the effectiveness of these principles and hopefully a toolkit for explaining why these principles work and why it's so important to implement them.  


David Van Couvering

Senior Principal Architect @eBay

David Van Couvering has been designing, building and delivering enterprise software since he first started at Sybase in 1988, converting tests from C to COBOL. His checkered past includes architecting one of the first Java application servers at Sybase, working on a series of explosively failing...

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Wednesday Nov 11 / 10:40AM PST (40 minutes)


Non-Technical Skills for Technical Folks

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