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LEGO’s Jesper Toubøl talks agile mould-making

Wed 9 Jan 2019 | Jesper Toubøl

Jesper Toubøl, Vice President E&M Elements & Moulds at LEGO, explains how LEGO has shaped business success through sound agile principles

Leadership in transformation

Today many businesses face practically ruthless demands to be ready for changes due to constantly shifting needs in the business environment. On top of this, technological developments often surprise many of us – they come faster and with very little warning.

This also means that leadership is undergoing a transformation. Agile methods are gaining even more ground based on the assumption that business initiatives (project, customer orders, product development etc.) are not static, and that the new knowledge can (and should be) be acquired along the way and applied to the initiative in focus immediately. In short agile leadership has become the solution to some weaknesses that plan-driven management has struggled with.

Agility as a way of thinking is one thing another is the concrete development mythologies characterized by agility. In other words, we can talk about something mental: a kind of “mindset” or “culture” and a tangible set of tools that support the agile mindset. There are practical tools we use such as Scrum, Kanban, SAFe etc. – each presents its own suggestion for managing different part of the agile process.

“Many fear that with an agile approach things might go on forever. In reality, there is nothing preventing an agreement that a certain agile effort will have a specific duration”

Traditional or agile approach

DevOps methodology can be leveraged to gain a competitive advantage outside of the software environment, but it depends. With the agile approach the aim is to confront static, plan-driven initiatives which in many places have a reputation for exceeding budgets, taking longer than estimated, and ultimately yield less value to the business than expected.

But as mentioned it depends on the initiatives that need to be addressed and solved. One of the biggest concerns for many managers in transforming an organisation from plan-driven (traditional) to agile management is the uncertainty as to whether one is able to maintain an overview of the scope and the costs.

Many fear that with an agile approach things might go on forever. In reality, there is nothing preventing an agreement that a certain agile effort will have a specific duration.

Business initiatives where agility should be considered

  • Needs appear continuously as a result of the process (vs requirements in the traditional world where they are described in advance)
  • Where development (such as for new product) is change-oriented, incremental and iterative (vs the traditional world of plan driven, sequential and determined in advance)
  • Where the focus is measured by volume and quality (vs the traditional way of measuring consumption of resources, time, and money etc.)

LEGO’s history with agile

LEGO began working with agile in my business unit as several changes in the overall business landscape required new ways of working, new and breakthrough innovations for both products and processes – and the results have been impressive. Our objective was to reduce lead-time as we needed to adapt much faster to a changed business environment. The transformation to an agile approach has been ongoing the last four to five years.

So, agility has been high on the agenda for my organisation as the method to create more efficiency, transparency and – not least – far more embedded projects initiated in the business to meet our strategic targets inside lead-time, cost and quality.

This has resulted in excellent opportunities to achieve better results quicker and to ensure that we function as engineers – constantly improving in meeting marketing desire to delivering newness in our products and operations rules for design in manufacturing.

We have succeeded in most of these initiatives, where conditions were created to ensure highly engaged internal customers approved all phases, and where the frequent small deliverables provided value to the customer.

“One of the biggest concerns for many managers in transforming an organisation from plan-driven to agile management is the uncertainty as to whether one is able to maintain an overview of the scope and the costs”

Lessons learned

We have made a seven-step approach to ensure approaches to agile challenges are integrated and achieve repeat success:

Coordinate expectations
The biggest risk of failure is to assume that with an agile approach, roles and responsibilities are self-explanatory. It’s not – it is important to customise the process contextually and have the initiative sponsor or the scrum master do their share of understanding

Ensure communication
Communicate clearly the scope, which is more loosely defined and changeable compared with traditional ways of working – and the chance of a change of scope along the way makes is very important to communicate expectations.

Get full-time resources
If at all possible, get full-time resources. Speed and capacity must be addressed all times.

Optimise team cooperation
Composition of the team is team is vital – focus on cohesive and diverse teams to ensure that the opportunities are captured, and the unknown unknowns get manage

Remember: it’s ok to fail!
Fail fast – it about being willing to let deliverables undergo “tests” and accept that they may fail. This approach ensures that no unnecessary time is spent on developing a product in a direction that later proves to be misguided or unproductive.

Clarify the responsibility for the backlog!
There can be only one priority no. 1. The product owner/sponsor is responsible for the backlog – focus on having the right people taking part of describing each priority in depth before tasks become part of the sprint planning.

Adapt your planning!
Always consider how much planning makes sense for each sprint – practice makes perfect here.

Jesper will be speaking at Techerati’s forthcoming DevOps Live event, taking place on 12th and 13th March 2019 at London’s ExCeL Centre. To hear from Jesper and other DevOps experts from around the world, register today for your FREE ticket.

Session Details

Title: Digital Mould Making

Location: DevOps, Containers and Software Architecture Theatre

Time: 09:55 – 10:20, 13th March

Experts featured:

Jesper Toubøl

Vice President E&M Elements & Moulds
LEGO

Tags:

Agile culture DevOps interview lego process technology
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