How Fast Can I Get My Favorite Hot and Crispy French Fries?

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How Fast Can I Get My Favorite Hot and Crispy French Fries?

How can McDonald's hot fries relate to Agile principles? Find out here. And yes, we can make just about everything relate to Agile.

· Agile Zone ·
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As an agile practitioner, I often come across questions about agility vs. predictability, agile metrics, the role of management, relative sizing vs. estimation in ideal days, and freedom in agility. Being a happy customer of McDonald’s, I wanted to provide my thoughts. (Let us keep the debate about healthy food in McD's for a separate blog).

Agility Vs. Predictability

It’s a myth that agility brings unpredictability in customer delivery due to the inherent nature of flexibility in scope and velocity to achieve that scope. In fact, agility enhances predictability thus laying the foundation for productivity gains.

When I go to McDonald’s, I don’t choose the queue based on its length. Despite a short or long queue, I prefer the one which is moving fast. That’s right, processing speed matters in agile, too. Everyone likes speed, but predictable velocity is more important to the customer. Some of the key principles in agile are around continuous delivery, constant pace, and reflection on how we can be more effective. Made-to-Order at McDonald’s may sound impossible in the IT world. But understanding customer needs enables product development teams to anticipate those needs, a process that is vital to bake predictability as part of the delivery cycle.

One can claim to be agile only when they are able to predict their customer delivery better and consistently release over release.

What to Measure?

There are tons of metrics to measure in the world of agile. If we must choose, my preference would be cycle time & the number of items being delivered. To reiterate, it’s not just about stories, tasks or defects, but value delivered to customers.

If we want to improve predictability in McDonald’s, we need to measure how much time it takes to serve a customer and how many items can be served during that time. We can associate this with Little’s Law where we don’t have control over arrival rate, but the customer wait time can be managed through the effectiveness of the delivery system.

It’s a cliché but very true—we can’t improve what we can’t measure. Hence, if we need to expedite the value of delivery we need to measure the cycle time and throughput. These two measures help understand the underlying blockers in the system.

Role of Management in Agile

Empowerment of teams doesn’t mean sidelining Managers. No literature around agile suggests keeping management away. Agility promotes self-disciplined and self-motivated teams to be able to deliver value to customers and at the same time, it suggests the ecosystem and support to be provided to the teams.

In the world of McDonald’s, supervisors need to know the cycle time and throughput at each counter as we discussed earlier.

Instead of being a spectator or in invisible mode, management should be an active participant to understand the challenges and blockers impacting these two critical elements and help teams to be more effective. Of course, management should be coached in asking powerful questions so that their intent comes across as being supportive as opposed to using their power to interfere.

Relative Sizing vs. Estimation in Ideal Days:

No one in McDonald’s counts the number of minutes to deliver French fries or a burger. Estimation can never be accurate, hence relative sizing is used to predict "roughly right." But we don’t need to get into a debate about which is better. At the end of the day as we mentioned above, cycle time and throughput matters, irrespective of size. Both the metrics help in understanding the need to break down requirements further & underlying blockers that are preventing value delivery.

Let us choose what works better for us.

Freedom in Agility

How often do we see the supervisor at McDonald’s coming over to monitor the queue and delivery process?

Agile is not about freedom; in fact, it’s more disciplined than it sounds. The expectation of teams is not just self-empowerment, but also to be self-organized. When a team lacks self-organization, leadership team steps in to ensure that customer commitments are not missed.

In a nutshell, it’s not about just French fries, but also how soon we can get it hot & crispy. Agility is no different than this.

agile methodologies, business agility, cycle time, mcdonald, predictability, throughput

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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