Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done. – Peter DruckerI know that metaphors can be misleading, but I can’t help thinking that the sport of curling provides an interesting one for thinking about managing a Lean IT team. During a scrum in rugby, all players are equal participants in trying to move the ball forward at the same time. In curling, however, there’s only one person at a time directly responsible for throwing the stone. Sweepers, on the other hand, are not allowed to touch the stone, but they play an important role in keeping it moving forward and adjusting its trajectory toward the target.
Taken literally, this looks like one-piece flow through a single-step process. Not very exciting. But if the game were viewed instead as a series of requirements (targets), one lined up after the other, then work-in-process (stones) could accumulate at each step before being worked upon (thrown) by the next team. Stones that miss a target completely would be rejected or returned.
I’m not sure if most managers would appreciate being compared to the “sweepers” in this scenario, but isn’t that exactly the role they should be playing?