We continue to meet with key staff of the Lean Enterprise Institute to discuss opportunities to work together. John Shook, LEI CEO, started the first Toyota plant in the United States. He and Steve Bell gave me the best book on Lean Product and Process Development and we agree that Takeuchi and Nonaka were looking at lean product development teams when they coined the term Scrum.
So it is interesting to look at the first lean product development team started by Taiichi Ohno, the inventor of the Toyota Product System. In his book, The Machine That Changed the World, Professor Womack tells the story:
Ohno, who visited Detroit repeatedly just after the war, thought this whole system was rife with muda, the Japanese term for waste than encompasses wasted effort, materials, and time. he reasoned that none of the specialists beyond the assembly worker was actually adding any value to the car. What's more, Ohno thought that assembly workers could probably do most of the functions of the specialists and do them much better because of their direct acquaintance with conditions of the line...
Back at Toyota City, Ohno began to experiment. The first step was to group workers into teams with a team leader rather than a foreman. The teams were given a set of assembly steps, their piece of the line, and told to work together on how best to perform the necessary operations. The team leader would do assembly tasks as well as coordinate the team, and , in particular, would fill in for any absent worker--concepts unheard of in mass -production plants.
Ohn next gave the team the job of housekeeping, minor tool repair, and quality-checking. Finally, as the last step, after the teams were running smoothly, he set time aside periodically for the team to suggest ways collectively to improve the process... This continuous, incremental improvement process, kaizen in Japanese, took place in collaboration with the industrial engineers, who still existed but in much smaller numbers.
Similar Scrum teams are used by Joe Justice for weekly builds of cars. It is clear that we have not only taken Scrum from the Japanese, but by testing it in thousands of software teams have added incremental value with the concept of weekly sprints, pair programming, test driven development, and other practices that allow production of new car prototypes faster than Toyota with globally distributed volunteer teams. In a couple of weeks we will watch the weekly car assembly at WikiSpeed in Redmond.