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Your teams might have the technical skills,

but do they have the odds in their favor?

Hi, I’m Frank Vega

Kanban Coaching Professional (KCP)

“Learning to Learn Coach”

Helping teams predictably deliver

quality products and services.

Embedded Coaching

My specialty (and passion) is working directly with teams on the “shop-floor” helping on your most critical and challenging “real-world” software/IT product and service delivery efforts.

Custom Workshops

All coaching materials and content are designed, developed, and delivered working with your teams, and tuned to address their specific and immediate targeted improvement needs.

What are your current product and service delivery pain points?

Predictable Delivery

Is your team struggling to  predictably deliver quality products and services?

Effective Goals

Are process improvement targets producing your desired  overall workflow outcomes?

Validated Improvements

Do you know if process improvement efforts are helping or measure how much?

How do I help your teams address these?

My coaching, based on lean management, focuses on helping teams gain a deeper understanding of their current capacity and capability, then builds problem-solving skills grounded in the three areas listed below. This moves them toward identifying right questions sooner, leading to incrementally and continuously developing their own right answers in their specific context to these and related pain points.

“Over two years I had the opportunity and pleasure to further develop my Agile skill set with Frank as my mentor. One of Frank’s key beliefs is that you don’t learn from a lecture or from a presentation.  But instead by helping you understand the principles which then allows you to determine the solution.  By teaching me how think through the issue and determine a solution, Frank has  given me the skills to solve many more issues than a lecture/class could have.”

Lee Leibecki

Flow Manager/Scrum Master/Product Owner, Fortune 100 Company

Learning to Learn

Today’s rate of change in technology and business amplifies both the benefits and losses that result based on where you or your teams direct product development and service delivery improvement efforts. It is no longer sufficient to drive and direct these efforts with the upfront focus being on efficient workflow processes and technical practice skills.  Competitive advantages today are coming more when process and skill improvement efforts are driven and directed by an upfront (value-driven) focus on better understanding (learning) about the quality (fitness) and delivery capacity (flow) of product and services to your clients and customers.

Exploring and Discovering

Evidence shows the businesses thriving and disrupting today’s marketplace are more often those where leaders and their teams are recognizing several key shifts occurring:

  • Network structures are replacing hierarchical ones as more effective forms for leading organizations and communicating within them. 
  • Dissemination of knowledge and learning within organizations now occurs more in an exponential manner rather than linear. 
  • Collaborative and collective efforts promote diverse competing perspectives where innovations can be allowed to emerge, and provide competitive leverage in designing and developing products and services. 

 

 

Uncertainty and Risks

Identifying uncertainties and associated risks related to where to improve products and services, or where to improve processes and practices are some of the most valuable functions business leaders perform. Simple scoring methods (ex. 1 to 10), colored heat maps created by “intuition and gut feel” alone, and “expert opinion” have often been shown to provide no value or worse introduce bias and error in decisions. Effective learning, exploring, and discovery requires more rigorous methods to guide these decisions. Even just small efforts toward understanding simple probabilistic and portfolio modeling approaches has shown significant improvements and benefits.

Real-world! Hands-on! Experience-based!

The coaching I deliver to help accelerate your team’s own learning capability is based on a foundation of extensive “hands-on” experience utilizing lean and agile principles, processes, practices, and related tools. This includes lean and agile experienced gained not just in a “coaching only role” but also while performing in roles such as software development director, software architect, technical team lead, and developer. This experience is the foundation of my pragmatic and practitioner-based coaching style and approach. And it is complemented by an emphasis on designing, developing, and delivering focused workshops, tuned to address specific real-world pain-points arising from your team’s development “shop-floor”, 

Typically, the workshops I design and develop are 2-hour sessions (or less) and delivered in a just-in-time manner, with the learning then immediately applied in follow-up working sessions on your team’s current product and service development efforts, maximizing learning feedback from actual results. When utilizing this delivery form of focused, brief (small-batch), and just-in-time “hands-on” workshops, followed by immediate real-world working sessions, the learning is more effectively understood, retained, and applied in the future, in contrast to multi-day classroom knowledge sharing type experiences.

 

Lean and agile principles, processes, and practices

For decades U.S. and western European car manufactures ignored the production methods used by the Japanese car manufacturers. As Toyota demonstrated incremental and continuous sales gains, eventually the U.S. and western European car manufacturers could no longer rationalize their market losses to other causes. The development of the Toyota Production System (TPS) started in the late 1940s, building on Eli Whitney’s interchangeable parts (late 1890s) and Henry Ford’s Model T continuous flow assembly lines (1910). As part of studying the TPS, in 1987 the western term “lean” was coined to refer broadly to the principals, processes, and practices derived from these learnings about the TPS in a manufacturing context (ex. lean manufacturing). However, my use here refers more to what is sometimes called 2nd Generation Lean (ex. lean management, lean thinking); lean principals, processes, and practices evolved, adapted, extended, and now being applied in product and service development contexts, and professional services (ex. healthcare).

Regarding agile a favorite description of mine is the following: agile is a mindset, described by four values and twelve principals of the Agile Manifesto (2001), and manifested through an unlimited number of processes, practices, and tools. Implementing processes, practices, and tools, without the “agile mindset”, the values, and principles of the Agile Manifesto are NOT agile (see Ahmed Sidky, Riot Games and ICAgile).

Kanban Method

The concept of “kanban” (visual signal or signboard used to regulate flow) has been around for some time, gaining greater awareness from the study of the Toyota Production System (TPS). Originally simply called “just-in-time production”, TPS used kanban to implement “pull” scheduling, in contrast to “push” scheduling.

Pull scheduling seeks to balance the intake of work to the measured capacity of a workflow system and is central to the Kanban Method’s demonstrated ability to create smooth (even) and predictable flow of outputs in the development and delivery of quality (fit for purpose) products and services. David J. Anderson (see book titled “Kanban”, 2010) was one of the earliest (2004) to apply pull scheduling concepts to IT related product and service workflows, and this work continues to be developed further, as an alternative (non-prescriptive) path to enterprise agility, by a growing world-wide Lean Kanban community.

The Kanban Method’s six foundational principals and six general properties/practices do not constitute a specific product or service development framework, process, or methodology. Rather, they provide a minimum of guidance in the way of enabling constraints, and controls to create meaningful and needed focus for organizations and their teams on where to effectively direct evolutionary and continuous process improvement efforts on current product and service development frameworks, processes, and methodologies, while allowing the maximum flexibility on how to implement them in their specific context.

Kanban/Flow Metrics

The “Agile Manifesto” arrived (2001) with its initial focus on creating an “agile mindset” in the development of software. About this same time lean management and thinking started expanding beyond its manufacturing roots and emphasis on simple waste elimination tools, into product and service development, and professional services and a shift toward a focus on improving value-creation.

The Kanban Method’s general properties/practices reflect this as well with guidance that leads organizations and teams toward first stabilizing their product and service development workflows, then toward establishing a capability that produces observable, repeatable, measurable, and predictable delivery of value (flow).

An effective implementation of this general guidance would also require organizations and teams incorporate the use of value-adding related metrics (measurements), such as their customer’s experienced end-to-end product or service delivery time (lead time), their current product/service delivery capacity (product/service delivery flow rate), in addition to related quality metrics (ex. return/cancel rates), and customer satisfaction metrics (right product/service, right time/place, right price/quality).

Agile Planning and Management

While the words “Iterative” and “incremental” are not explicitly stated in the Agile Manifesto, the notion of iterative and incremental development is definitely embodied in the “agile mindset.” Working in an iterative and incremental manner allows organizations and teams to leverage learning from a previous iteration sooner, or even immediately, in a subsequent one, and the ability to respond to external information that only became available recently. However, nothing in the “agile mindset” limits the notion of iterative and incremental to design/development and build/delivery activities and outputs.

While transitions to using iterative and incremental approaches for the design/development and build/delivery activities at the team levels are frequently observed, it is not uncommon for planning and management activities and their deliverables (ex. budgets, capacity allocations, project funding, delivery schedules) to continue being performed as a one-time (single iteration), big-batch (single increment) immutable outputs, never updated in response to learning or new available information. This “mismatch in frequency” often contributes to an inappropriate application of “just-in-case” thinking during the annual planning events, which in turn swells the intake demand, overloading and choking the product and services development and delivery capability of many organizations. The result, as the year-end approaches, is often little or poor value delivered and little or no predictable flow to customers.

Addressing this “frequency mismatch” is one of the challenges organizations and teams must address to fully leverage the benefits (increased cycles of learning and value delivery, and greater strategic business agility) of an iterative and incremental approach. Pull scheduling and portfolio-based/probabilistic forecasting (vs project-based/average-based estimates) are some of the tools being effectively used to leverage the higher frequency of learning events and opportunities to respond to new just-in-time information.

XP Practices

The foundations of XP (eXtream Programming), one of the earliest agile software development methodologies, were developed prior to the Agile Manifesto, during the ’80s and into the ’90s. In essence, its early use and development served as a testing ground for applying an “agile mindset” in developing software, and a number of the values and principals later reflected and captured in the manifesto.

It consists of a small set of values, principals, and practices (originally twelve, now thirteen by some counts). Initially, teams were coached to apply all practices (or it wasn’t XP). As its use expanded well beyond the community that developed it, today the advice is typically to start with the small core of practices (test-drive development, pair programming, refactoring, and simple design), then add other practices as proficiency and learning are developed. A number of the underlying values, principals, practices are transferable beyond the IT and software development context and can provide significant and similar benefits.

My professional background

Over 30+ years in the IT domain, my roles have included several employed positions such as GIS specialist, numerical analyst, database modeler, computer services group director, LAN administrator, developer, technical team leader, software architect, and director of web services team. While self-employed from 1996 – 2002, I provided custom software development support to 17 clients.

 Later in 2002, in a leadership employee role, I began learning about lean and agile, helping our software development teams transition to these new ways of thinking and working. After returning to self-employment in 2009, I’m now focusing on sharing my extensive hands-on experience with applying lean and agile principals, processes, and practices, by providing embedded coaching complimented with developing custom workshops tuned to my client’s most critical, specific, and immediate needs related to their software and IT product and service development efforts. My 18 clients since then have included several Fortune 500 companies in online e-retailing, financial and insurance services, healthcare supplies, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals.

 

 

 

What clients and colleagues say!

“Based on our experience I can say that Frank is the real thing. His knowledge and expertise of Kanban, metrics and Agile practices, in general, has been invaluable…ability to connect with folks at all levels…willingness to do whatever is needed to make his customer’s successful.”

Bennet Vallet (via LinkedIn recommendation)

formerly Director of Software Engineering, Seimens Healthcare

“I had the pleasure of working with Frank for more than 7 years…on multiple project teams….during our transition from a Traditional Plan-driven development approach to Agile and Lean , Frank was a major influence on the organization, and myself…Frank appreciates when his knowledge and interpretations are challenged, and he utilizes these conversations and differences of opinion, to expand his knowledge, as well as to educate others.”

Tony Malinowski (via LinkedIn recommedation)

formerly Senior Project Manager, iLevel/Weyerhauser

“I would just like to share what a positive influence Frank Vega has been…his style, how he adapts to different personalities, how he manages to get people thinking differently – I really want his leadership to also know how much we value him on this program. He has made such a positive contribution…”

Leida Bell

Sr. IT Manager, Fortune 100 Company

Let’s Chat!

…about your team’s current pain points in a free 1-hour phone or Skype call and explore if and how I might help!

…about your team’s immediate questions at a monthly Agile Denver Kanban SIG meet-up!

 

…about a free on-site or remote “brown-bag” session with your team!

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