Lean Primer

This is a primer intended to give an overview and an introduction about the lean production, partly based on a small e-book: Lean Primer by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde.

Lean thinking is a large system originally started by Toyota for product and project development and then spanning to service, sales,  HR and so on.

The first page sets the tone: take a relay race, where runners have to wait for the baton from their running colleague. Such a waste and under-utilization.
Traditional management would try to “optimize the resource utilization”, maybe asking them to run more races in parallel.

In contrast, the central idea in lean thinking is:

watch the baton, not the runners.

Several tools (like the Kanban) have been popularized by Toyota but they are not the pillars of the lean system.
Rather the power behind is a company’s management commitment to continuously invest in its people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.
Toyota’s real advantage was its ability to harness the intellect of ‘ordinary’ employees.

the lean thinking "house"
The lean thinking "house"

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The chess master and the computer

In this article in the New York Review of Books Garry Kasparov, a former chess grandmaster, writes about his experience playing against chess computers, that started in 1985 when he was able to defeat 32 computers in 32 different games played simultaneously and arrived through 1997 when he was defeated by the IBM machine Deep Blue and until 2005 when he experimented playing with the help of a computer against another team human+computer.

The most interesting piece is when Kasparov analyses the current status of the chess software.
Originally it started as an artificial intelligence problem, with the goal “to develop a program that played chess by thinking like a human, perhaps even by learning the game as a human does.”
And it ended with chess programs all based on the same basic programming concepts for just picking a move by searching through millions of possibilities, a pure brute force approach.

In his words:

Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.

I am a big fan of the small steps and gradually progressing a product but this piece left me thinking: are we exchanging the big dreams and visions for the saferand lower hanging fruits?