LeanGiving in the Real World – Agile for Mechanics

[Guest Post – MJ Wivell is the CEO of BTI360 and is known as a thought leader in implementing Kanban systems to manage software teams. MJ holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Lynchburg College and a M.S. in Informations Systems from George Mason University. MJ is a Sun Certified Java Programmer and Certified ScrumMaster]

Recently I met Peter Saddington at AgileDC and he asked a simple question:

What if our organization was to take your talents and use them to bless others?

Peter called this LeanSalt/LeanGiving.  That question rang in my ears.  And then it happened, spontaneously.

Two days later I was working with a software team one of the project managers had a puzzled look on her face.  She said, “I think this agile stuff would work great in my husband’s automobile company.”  Immediately I thought of Peter’s question.  Here was my chance.

I learned that she thought there was a lot of waste in the company and if improvements could be made more cars could be worked on which meant more revenue for the shop.  The challenge was where to start?

After a lot of conversation we decided to implement 3 changes:

  • Visualize the work flow and limit each mechanic’s work
  • Have nightly check-ins to plan for the next days work
  • Conduct retrospectives at the end each week for continuous improvement


Once we visualized the workflow and limited the amount of work in progress, issues started to bubble to the surface.

  1. First, expert mechanics were doing low cost, routine jobs like oil changes instead of high performance jobs that brought in more revenue.
  2. Second, mechanics spent overhead time ordering parts (instead of the service manager) rather than revenue generating time working on cars.
  3. Third, a large backlog of cars were stacking up waiting for a mechanic to become available.

The following were the solutions the team suggested at the daily stand ups and retrospectives.

  1. Focus expert mechanics on high paying, high performance jobs.
  2. Let the overhead staff (service manager) handle overhead tasks.
  3. Visually track each car in the work flow to better manage customer expectations.

These changes led to greater team morale, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Change the World. Help Others.

It was all capped off when the project manager came back to me and said, “Last night for the first time in months I saw my husband smile about the business.”  Wow!

So, how can your organization take its talents and bless others?  Who knows, you just may change their world!

5 Replies to “LeanGiving in the Real World – Agile for Mechanics”

  1. My first experience with an Agile effort wasn’t with software or hardware, but Marketing. And I have always taught that any group of people engaged in any joint work effort could use a number of Agile ideas/techniques to their benefit regardless of whether one would consider the overall effort to be Agile or not.

    Daily meetings is the first thing I suggest to people to try, followed by some idea of a work “iteration,” followed by retrospectives, then the idea of a backlog to make work visible, then iteration commitment concepts, etc.

    Indeed replace the word software in the Agile Manifesto and its Principles with “Product/Service” and I think it works fine.

    1. Thanks for the comment! You’re exactly right. Agile isn’t just for software. The principles and practices can be used all over the place. Even your own life!
      +1 to the software -> product/service. Totally makes sense.

  2. Pingback: LeanGiving in the Real World – Agile for Mechanics | Agile | Syngu
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