Karmona's Pragmatic Blog

Don't get overconfident… Tiny minds also think alike

Karmona's Pragmatic Blog

Gemba Kaizen

June 23rd, 2009 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 3 Comments


* Gemba (現場) in Japanese means “the actual place” or “the real place”
* Kaizen (改善) in Japanese means “improvement”

In business, Gemba refers to the place where value is created and the general notion is that the best improvement ideas will come simply from going to the Gemba (‘bottom-up’ vs. ‘top-down’)

The ‘Gemba Walk’ is an activity that takes management to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities a.k.a. to practice Gemba Kaizen which is similar to the “western” concept of MBWA (Management by Walking Around)

My view

As I have posted before “To master (/control) a software project you must be able to breathe the project – inhale the chaotic butterfly movements around you and exhale with the needed adjustments…” (The Software Chaos | Feb. 2008)

Although we wish it will be different… the best optimizations are “simply” very deep into the details and I have found out that a daily practice of ‘Gemba Walk’ can be very helpful to your project “well-being” (and I must admit that it took me several years to find out that my weird walk actually had a Japanese name/theory ;)

“less important than a gnat’s toot in a hurricane” :)
Gemba Walk with Dillbert

Seven tips for an healthy ‘Gemba Walk’ / MBWA

  1. Visit everyone
  2. Go alone – Daily standup meetings aren’t enough
  3. Don’t bypass middle management e.g. don’t change priorities, requirements or design
  4. Observe, ask and LISTEN
  5. Be genuine, have fun and strive to catch your engineers doing something right and not something wrong (you are not the “fun-police” ;)
  6. Share your dreams and vision
  7. Don’t “disturb” the Gemba – Timing is everything…

What next?

  1. Correlate the Gemba / ‘bottom-up’ observations with your ‘top-down’ understanding
  2. Identify waste, risks and opportunities
  3. Kaizen – Improve and optimize accordingly

Good Luck!

Random News from BBC – Gauguin ‘cut off Van Gogh’s ear’

“Vincent van Gogh did not cut off his own ear but lost it in a fight with fellow artist Paul Gauguin in a row outside a brothel”

→ 3 CommentsTags: Management · Project Management

Cogito Ergo Sum Pragmaticus

November 10th, 2008 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 2 Comments

“Cogito Ergo Sum Pragmaticus” (= I think, therefore I am Pragmatic | I am not a native latin speaker but the sound felt right ;)

I will dare to claim that eating restrictions and drinking contradictions for breakfast* is one of the first steps in the pragmatic** manager journey.

The ability to combine a revolution-like sense-of-urgency characteristics

  • Opportunistic result oriented thinking with basic strive for early result (a.k.a. Constant search for simple low-hanging-fruits)
  • Edgy pro-activeness in identifying and mitigating possible risks, bottlenecks or any other result-pooper
  • Choosing the right battles with healthy pareto mindset

Spiced with René Descartes methodological skepticism

  • Constant questioning and reflection: Why are we doing it? What problem are we solving? Is it really worth it? Is there an easier way? What will happen if we will drop it?
  • Embrace doubt in current assumptions, restrictions, taboos, procedures, personal and corporate comfort zones or any other sacred cows
  • Decipher the important vs. the urgent

With some Chinese long-term thinking

  • Define a clear vision and goals
  • Team building
  • Invest time in analyzing market trends and technological direction

Are only some of the basic elements needed to reach a pragmatism Zen (!)


Three Pragmaticus Tips:

* Don’t Skip Breakfast – Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day! ;)

** Schedule a weekly recurring meetings in your schedule to proactively reflect on your life contradictions

*** Google engineers have launched a new Google Blog Directory – Very inresting reading…

→ 2 CommentsTags: Leadership · Management · Project Management

Managing Engineers is like Herding Cats

October 4th, 2008 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 2 Comments

When “The Moscow Cats Theater” came to New York, the Russian clown Yuri Kuklachev was interviewed:  the secret of training them is realizing that you can’t force cats to do anything […] If the cat likes to sit you can’t force her to do anything else […] Each cat likes to do her own trick […] Maruska is the only one who does the handstand. I find the cat and see what they like to do and use that in the show […] I have a cat now that loves to be in the water…”



Personally, I think that managing engineers is much more complicated than herding cats (although I didn’t have the twisted pleasure to herd a cat yet)

When you go out of your way to hire the best people around than soon enough you will find yourself herding a superior, class A, hyper-developed mutant Ligers* who are much more knowledgeable than the herder (a.k.a. you)

In this environment you have to learn to simply trust your people (although this is not simple at all :), mark the vision, let them loose and only help to get rid of the stones in their way (this concept was best described as the Open Kimono** policy in Peopleware)

Well…. Managing the Delver Engineers is like Herding Legendary Ligers and you need to make a superior effort to see what these ligers “likes to do” and run fast enough to set the Vision and move the rocks out of the way.


* The Liger, is a (huge) hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger

** Open Kimono Attitude: You take no steps to defend yourself from the people you have put in positions of trust.

By the way, The best answer I found on the origin of the term “Herding Cats” was in Google Answers

→ 2 CommentsTags: Delver · Development · Leadership · Management · People · Project Management · Software Management

Software Release On-Time

February 22nd, 2008 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · No Comments

The British merchant ship Madagascar

“The British merchant ship Madagascar set sail from Melbourne in August 1853, headed for London and carrying 60,000 ounces of gold dust. – She was never seen again…” (http://www.futilitycloset.com/2008/01/29/overdue/)

Well… Saying “no more gold dust” is the only way I know to close a software release on-time…

P.S. Did you noticed that the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. (http://www.futilitycloset.com/2008/02/12/trivium-16/)

→ No CommentsTags: Management · Planning · Project Management · Software Management

The Software Chaos

February 22nd, 2008 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · No Comments

The Chaos Theory

1st Warning: Chaotic post below

Software project are chaotic system and are highly sensitive to their initial conditions (a.k.a. the butterfly effect) and dynamics (e.g. wrong design, vague requirements, team professionalism etc.).

To master (/control) a software project you must be able to breathe (/smoke ;-) the project – inhale the chaotic butterfly movements around you and exhale with the needed adjustments or you will be crushed on the nearest project failure shore with zillions of butterfly excuses.

2nd Warning: Smoking software project is bad for you health

After a decade of software projects smoking I find myself easily doing a background-surfing on the chaotic edges of my projects like I drive my car in the same daily well known route back from work but since I am part of the same chaotic system I am trying to control, I know that my background-surfing is like forgetting my own butterfly wings.

Software project smoking isn’t a social event and can’t be easily shared but it is also one of the key factors in projects surfing – If you will not be able to share your surf experience with your team, your own butterfly wings will bring the next tsunami.

3rd Warning: Don’t practice management if you don’t like the butterflies

→ No CommentsTags: Development · Management · Project Management · Software Management