A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



97 Agile Ideas - Idea Number 2

What Is it?

This is an idea from the great Taiichi Ohno, one of the thinkers behind the Toyota Production System. Whatever kind of work place you're in, you should always be asking yourselves (and each other) what problem it is that you're solving. We're writing software. But is that really the most important problem? Is the problem rather getting motivated and skilled developers at an affordable rate? Once that's fixed does the software writing become a much easier problem? Is the problem having a full order book?

Ohno's answer to this - well, his ultimate answer to it, was that the problem that Toyota was solving was the problem of "How to manufacturing cars at the rate of need." This was related to the problem that the Japanese economy was extrememly cyclical: the problem that Ford had solved when he had become successful making cars - "How to make cars as cheaply as possible," to which the answer was "Make as many possible on a production line" couldn't be the answer for Toyota.

What is it? What problem are you solving? It is a way of directing effort. It's also probably a way of thinking laterally about your problems. What business are you really in? The customer counselling business? The bid writing business? As the success of Toyota shows, the way that you answer these questions can radically change what you do with your business and lead in unexpected directions.