According to the father of the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno, there are four major concepts organizations are getting wrong when it comes to Agile.

Don’t Be Agile

When most organizations think of agile, they think of automation which leads to a reduction in their work force. It is common belief that by reducing the number of employees that cost reduction is therefore achieved. However, rather than reducing costs, automation in place of employees can sometimes add to the organization’s costs. Jumping right into automation without a holistic view of the flow of the organization’s supply chain could lead to inventory buildup and waste. Instead, rather than being agile for agile’s sake, it is important to “level the flow” of the supply chain by meeting the demand with a correct amount of supply. This can be achieved through value stream mapping and making customer/client use visible to all members of the supply chain. Automation should only be considered if it brings actual value to the organization.  

Don’t Be Ready

Many agile organizations still rely on various aspects of predictive planning. It is in our nature to stock up and prepare in advance. However, this can lead to waste (inventory overstock, having to change plans often, etc.) and a resistance to agile processes as these are not being reinforced. Instead, organizations should be “just in time.” It is important to meet demand with the correct amount of supply at the time the supply is needed (just in time), rather than create a large stockpile of items. Organizations could also consider backwards scheduling – completing tasks right on time to optimize flexibility and incorporating last-minute changes or customizations.

Don’t Assign Roles

By assigning roles among employees, it takes away autonomy from those employees. An engineer assigned the role of engineer will complete the responsibilities of the engineer role. Without a certain degree of encouragement, the engineer may continue to grow in their engineer role but will not seek to become proficient in other areas within the organization. It is recommended that organizations use self-organization, where employees perform the work that is required at the right time without a predefined role. This encourages development of T-shaped skills that are extremely important to agile organizations.

Don’t Know Everything

Predictive management relies on developing something from current knowledge. However, if people believe they already know everything about the process, project, etc., then progress stops with that knowledge. Agile management relies on developing knowledge from the unknown (through discovery). Just in time was created from the belief that organizations do not know the future demand. Organizations need to set the standard as continuous growth and improvement with employees to continuously seek learning and knowledge.