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Mura Muri Muda

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and listen to Jeff Sutherland a few days ago. For those who do not know who Jeff is, he and Ken Schwaber created Scrum.  It was really quite amazing to listen to him speak.  The topic of the talk was Using Scrum to avoid bad CMMI implementations.

Scrum and CMMI are often at odds with each other. What does each approach bring to the table? Scrum promotes the idea of focusing on the most important product issues first and supports frequent communication. CMMI brings a structure that promotes consistency and discipline to avoid waste and rework. So, why should we try to combine both approaches? Is this combination a good idea?

Mura Muri MudaThis post isn’t going to go into detail about the entire talk. Rather, there were three words Jeff said that had me scrambling for my pen. “Muri, Mura, Muda“.

The Toyota Production System identifies three types of waste (Muri, Mura, Muda).

Muri (無理, “unreasonable”) is a Japanese term for overburden, unreasonableness or absurdity.

Mura (斑 or ムラ) is traditional general Japanese term for unevenness, inconsistency in physical matter or human spiritual condition.  Waste reduction is an effective way to increase profitability.

Muda (無駄) is a traditional Japanese term for an activity that is wasteful and doesn’t add value or is unproductive.

With commercial organizations, I consistently see two primary goals:  [1] Make Money and [2] Save Money

But as you drill down into an organization, these two goals are not as obvious.  So, to address this, I rewrite the two goals as:  [1] Deliver Value and [2] Eliminate Waste

When we reach this point, muri, mura, muda come into play.  In your day-to-day activities, are there areas you can make more efficient or improve?  Do you really need to go to that meeting or can someone just email you an agenda before and minutes after?  In your project lifecycle, do you really need a 10-step process workflow or can you achieve the same goal with just 5 steps?

Here is a practical exercise:  Make a list of activities you have to do this week.  Ask yourself why you need to do each of those activities. Do they map back to the core mission of your company?  Should any of these activities be postponed until the goal is clarified?  Should you just NOT do one of them?

I have a daily meeting at 10:00.  Why?  I fill find out what the team did yesterday, what they are doing today, and what impediments they have.  My job is to help facilitate their activities and remove roadblocks.  This 15 minute meeting is a keeper.

I have an invite to the Finance Working Group meeting on Monday. Why? Hmmm.  That’s a good questions!  The meeting is scheduled for 1hr.  I know that it traditionally lasts 2-3hrs.  No invoice was attached in the meeting invite.  That leads me to believe they are going to review 500 pages as a group.  Though it’s necessary to review the invoice, this is a very inefficient way of doing it.  I will send a request for a copy of the invoice to review when I can.  I will decline the meeting invite.

Of those activities on your list, highlight which ones just don’t sit well with you.  Really listen to your gut. Are any items on your list an activity that does not directly translate into providing value?  Are any items on your list going to somehow cut into your personal life?  Are any items on your list literally a waste of time, money, or energy!?  If you can scratch any one of these items off your list, you are on the road to Kaizen (改善) (English: Continuous Improvement).

Before you accept that next task or meeting invite, ask yourself if there is a better way.


HT: Wikipedia

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About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of ALM Platforms at LeadingAgile. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon). Novice angel investor.

7 Responses to “Mura Muri Muda”

  1. February 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    There is not need for Scrum to be at odds with CMMI. The Process Areas of CMMI have “technical solution” as one of 22 areas.

    http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2005/11/cmmi_and_agile.html
    http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/11/cmmi-agile-and-managing-projects.html
    http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/02/cmmi-and-agile-software-development-are-orthogonal.html

    speaks to some of issues around this topic.

    • Anonymous
      February 12, 2011 at 1:57 am

      Glen, there was a misunderstanding. The blog post area in italics was a quote from the APLN event details. I underlined the link, so others can see the entire event details.

  2. Anonymous
    February 12, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Sridhar,
    This week, during my appearance at the AtTask WorkOut 2011 Conference, I spoke about how we can have good project management process and still utilize agile methods to deliver value. Yes, you can have governance and process but there needs to be a balance. I have watched a combination of over-the-top governance and poor development practices grind a program to almost a dead stop. We need to identify processes that do not add value to the program and eliminate them.

    Let me reiterate. I am still a believer in good process and good governance. But I also believe in empowering the teams to get the job done, within the framework agreed upon.

    • February 12, 2011 at 5:01 am

      I understand that Derek. My intention was only to see more posts from you on this 🙂

      • Anonymous
        February 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm

        Thank you, Sridhar. You’re keeping me on my toes.

  3. February 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    If you haven’t looked at Ted Hardy’s latest post, he seems to be channeling you.

    http://www.betterprojects.net/2011/02/how-to-kill-zombie-project.html

    • Anonymous
      February 13, 2011 at 1:02 am

      Maybe he saw me on Ustream at the Work Management Summit? Thanks for the heads up. I just left a comment on his blog post.

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