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Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Lean Code

Software applications exist to perform a wide variety of tasks and for any given task there are many applications to choose from.  As anyone who has visited an “App Store” knows, the number of available applications can range from a select few to thousands.  Your performance criteria provide a means of selecting the best application for you or your company.

Customers will question whether your application is worth the investment of both money and time.  It is from this perspective that lean code serves the programmer’s objective to deliver maximum value to ensure the customer is satisfied with their purchase.  Those who buy from the App Store are only concerned with two things:

  1. How much does it cost?
  2. What can it do for me?

The customer’s perspective quickly changes after the purchase to:

  1. Did I get what I paid for?
  2. Does the app perform as expected?

Lean serves to maximize customer value through the elimination of waste.  To some, this translates to providing a low cost application in the shortest time possible.  From our perspective, lean translates to an application’s ability to perform to customer expectations.

Performance Matters

In our view, lean code is determined by an application’s performance – “speed of execution” – not development time.  It is possible to write a fully functioning application in a relatively short period of time using a high level programming language such as Python.  However, the performance of the application may be substantially less than that of an equivalent application written in C.

The best choice of benchmarks to measure performance is real applications… Attempts at running programs that are much simpler than a real application have led to performance pitfalls. – The Computer Language Benchmarks Game – Toy Benchmark Programs

HelloWorld-GoLangWhen personal computers were first introduced to market, they were slow, cumbersome, constrained by memory, and disk storage was extremely limited.  The need to write “tight” code to provide as many features as possible was a given.

Today, computers have an abundance of memory, storage, and processing power giving rise to bloated software applications that are more feature focused and not necessarily performance driven.  A simple “HelloWorld.com” program could be written using debug and required only 17 bytes.  By comparison, the most basic “Hello World” program written in the GO programming language compiles to create a 1,624,576 byte “.exe” file.

Programming Languages

Performance implications of the language used for a given application cannot be underestimated.  Consider that the C programming language is consistently used as the benchmark by which all other programming languages are compared.  Unless you are programming in Assembly Language, few languages can touch the performance of C.

This is not to suggest that performance is solely dependent on the programming language used to create the application itself.  The performance of an application is as dependent on a programmer’s knowledge and ability to effectively apply the capabilities of the selected programming language to efficiently perform a given task.

Speed of Execution versus Development Time

Sorting data is a common requirement for any software application and there are a number of algorithms to choose from including:  Quick Sort, Bubble Sort, Selection Sort, Insertion Sort, Merge Sort, In-Place Merge Sort, Introsort, Heap Sort, Comb Sort, Bucket Sort, Radix Sort, Tim Sort, Library Sort, and Counting Sort.

The algorithm selected by the programmer will determine how efficiently a sorted list can be generated.  A bubble sort is relatively easy to implement and requires minimal development time but executes slowly whereas a quick sort may require more development time but executes very quickly.  In reality, the best sorting algorithm is not one but a hybrid of multiple algorithms combined into a single sorting solution.

Building Blocks or Stumbling Blocks

Interpreted and high level languages are made possible by the continued development and availability of numerous modules, libraries, frameworks, and API’s (Application Program Interface) and can save programmers a tremendous amount of time and effort when developing highly complex applications.  Unfortunately, this can also give rise to increasing demands on the resources such as available memory and can impede an application’s performance.

All of the advancements made to simplify and reduce development time give rise to increased functionality that may not necessarily be required by the application.  Either a developer must attempt to write their own interfaces or potentially suffer the consequences of having to use the packages that are available.

While it is easy to implement and use various packages, another downside is not fully knowing what is really happening behind the scenes.  As we have already noted, a number of algorithms are available to sort our data.  It is a simple matter to write “sort (‘a’, ‘d’, ‘e’, ‘c’, ‘b’) and expect that the list will be sorted correctly, however, we have no understanding of the algorithm used to return the result.

Economies of Scale

One reason for concerning ourselves with algorithms and our code’s speed of execution is to understand whether our application will scale, especially where high volumes of data storage and retrieval may be realized.

Excel is a widely used spreadsheet application that is capable of working with relatively large data sets.  For relatively small data sets, Excel is the perfect solution and offers a vast array of capabilities to work with our data.  However, as the spreadsheet continues to grow, performance begins to suffer.  In addition, the size of the data set is limited.  In contrast, a relational database management system such as Microsoft’s SQL Server can easily manage millions of rows of data across a wide ranging number of tables.

Although the applications share a certain perceived level of common functionality, they are radically different in their implementation and capabilities.  If you have the opportunity to use SQL Server, you will note the emphasis on execution plans and performance.  However, as we have already noted regarding language skills, there is a stark difference between knowing SQL and using it to write effective and efficient queries.

The Best of Both Worlds

The point of comparing Excel and SQL Server is to recognize how each application provides value to the user.  Excel is feature driven and able to work with moderately sized data sets whereas SQL Server is performance driven, offering relatively few features and able to work with extremely large data sets.

For this reason, it is not surprising that Excel can connect to SQL Server as a data source.  The user can now have the best of both worlds where highly efficient SQL Server Queries can seamlessly provide data to a workbook or worksheet where the feature rich capabilities of Excel can be applied.

This comparison between Excel and SQL Server also demonstrates that not all aspects of programming require the same level of code optimization.  There is not much that can be done to improve the efficiency of a process where the application is waiting for the user.  As such, the “value stream” should focus on code where the user is waiting for our application to complete a given task.

Lean Code

To cite from The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course “Lean Six Sigma” by Sheila Shaffie and Shahbaz Shahbazi, ISBN 978-0-07-174385-3, the following statement can easily be applied to application development from a “Software as a Service” (SAAS) perspective:

Lean Six Sigma is based on the premise that in order to deliver service and product excellence, firms must not only have an in-depth knowledge of their internal processes, but also have a profound understanding of customers’ current expectations and future needs.

Although we have only touched on a few elements of Lean Code, we have identified the need to provide our customers with high performance solutions that will scale to meet their growing demands.  Processes are not only those used to run our business but also include the underlying processes or value streams that comprise the code in our applications.

Lean thinking applies to all facets of our business from customer service and operations management to software development and application performance.  Increasing value to our customers and our stakeholders is the objective of our lean initiatives.

 

Until Next Time, STAY lean!

Versalytics

Related Links:

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SQL Performance Explained — Averlytics.com

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via SQL Performance Explained — Averlytics.com

Attitude …

What you do does not define who you are but your attitude while doing it will ~ Redge

IMG_0175
When someone asks, “Tell me about yourself”, Do you automatically begin by letting them know what you do for a living?  How many times have you heard that “You are not what you do”?

This is not a new or radical statement and shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone reading it.  What will define you is your attitude.  We have an innate sense to “read” the people around us – friends, family, those we we work with, and those who we work for.

Other duties as required

I cringe when I hear the words, “That’s not my job”.  As a leader, I ask no one to do what I am not willing to do myself.  I demonstrate this by doing what needs to be done regardless of the task at hand – and that means anything.  For this reason, all of our job descriptions include “Other duties as required”.

Next time someone asks, “Tell me about yourself”, maybe describing your personal qualitities before your capabilities and experiences is a better place to start.  Be you and stay true to yourself.  That’s not attitude, that’s just who you are.

A key principle of lean is to hire and retain the best people.  Skills aside, these same people posses three common traits that I seek to employ:  Attitude, Character, and Enthusiasm.  They are ACEs who differentiate our company’s culture from that of our competitors.

Your company or organization is represented by all of the employees who work there.  The perception of your company in the market place is a direct reflection of the attitude of the leadership and that of their employees.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics

Kaikaku – Radical Change

Lean has been around for a long time and the naming was not Toyota’s idea. The proof of wisdom is in the results. I don’t sell “lean” per se. I am a change agent with a proven track record that speaks for itself.

Taking a company out of the red and into the black in a matter of months can’t just be described as an exercise in “lean” or “lean thinking.” I’ve had some company presidents call the transformation a miracle.

It’s about radical change, quickly, and effectively. It’s not about consulting and advising. It’s about identifying the opportunities, identifying solutions, and executing changes – immediately! Kaikaku is the Japanese term for radical change.

There’s little time for discussion.  Just get it done, monitor results, and correct negative trends at the earliest possible moment. Achieving radical change requires all the sense of urgency a crisis deserves. When the business is back on the road to recovery, the time will come when those at the top want to know how “you” did it.

Unfortunately, without a pattern of successes that speak for themselves, we are simply looking for an opportunity to apply what we think know from someone else’s experiences.  There is no prescription for a “lean” turnaround though there are methods that are commonly known and easily deployed that can be used to formulate an effective strategy.

It’s not uncommon to hear, “We have exactly the same problem except …”, and therein lies the reason why we need to embrace lean thinking as opposed to “simply” attempting to copy another company’s solutions.  How likely is it that the circumstances your company now faces are exactly the same as those of another company to yield the requirement for their solution?

Use the tools to develop a solution that addresses YOUR problem, YOUR exceptions, and YOUR expectations.  The growth of your business depends more on what makes your company different from the competition … not your similarities.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics

Related Articles

Timing is Everything – OEE

Flawless Execution – Performance to Plan

Overall Equipment Effectiveness, OEE, is as much about “when” as it is about “how”.  The objective of OEE is to identify opportunities that enable us to maximize the time available to produce quality parts at rate – the ideal cycle time.  This ultimately affects our ability to predict when production should start and finish in kind.

The Plan

Having a plan and executing a plan are far from being one and the same.  Having a plan suggests that we already understand where “losses” are expected to occur.  As such, our ability to execute according to plan is the difference between predictive performance expectations and actual performance results.

The variance between expected and actual results directly correlates to how well we understand our processes – regardless of outcome.  In this same context, the degree of variance observed should also be reflected in the results of our OEE.

This becomes relevant when we consider where we think improvements are required.  If we are unable to predict or anticipate the performance of our processes in their current state, how is it possible to truly identify the return on investment for incremental improvements in the future?

Statistical Process Control (SPC)

How much variance do you observe in the results of your OEE from one run to another?  I wrote a post several years ago titled “Variance, OEE’s Silent Partner (Killer)“, that discusses this concept in greater depth.

The key to improving OEE begins by eliminating the excess variance in the results.  In other words, to control OEE requires us to eliminate the sources of variation.  When the results become predictable, the opportunity to control OEE begins.

Availability is typically the greatest contributor to observed differences in OEE.  The primary reasons typically include unexpected machine faults and / or process failures.  An effective preventive maintenance program will minimize and eventually eliminate the effect of “unexpected” downtime events on your OEE results.

In Conclusion

There is more to process performance than monitoring downtime events, speed, and first time through quality levels.  Performance to plan extends the concept to include whether parts are running when they were actually scheduled to run.

Predictable processes provide for greater flexibility in scheduling as do efforts to reduce setup / change over times and increase throughput.  Toyota’s Heijunka box, a visual scheduling and optimization methodology, relies heavily on predictable process performance and short setup / change over times.

Just in time manufacturing demands unparalleled performance that can be enhanced by using OEE as a key indicator in your production operations.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics

Related Articles

  1. Variance – OEE’s Silent Partner (Killer)
  2. Heijunka: The Art of Leveling Production

Camtasia 9 – Screen Recording and Video Editing

I upgraded to TechSmith’s Camtasia version 9 today and note some very nice improvements that make producing videos with Camtasia so much faster and easier.  Recording, editing, and creating your video is a simple process, even for novice users.  You can save or share your videos by uploading them to Screencast.com, Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, and more.

camtasia-9-installed

It is so much easier and more effective to create a quick video to demonstrate how to perform a task than it is to describe it in writing.  I couldn’t imagine having to write instructions explaining how to tie shoe laces especially when we consider that our student probably can’t read or write yet!

In this same regard, a video makes for a better coach than a set of written instructions and videos often capture unanticipated experiences or nuances in the process that you may fail to note in your written narrative.

Editing videos doesn’t get any easier or more versatile than with Camtasia.  Simply drag & drop features and effects into Camtasia’s multi-track timeline to place them precisely where you want them.  All of the video editing technologies you need are available using simple mouse clicks.

The tutorials for using Camtasia are professional, easy to follow, and explain how to use each of the features available.  The added benefit of course is to see how powerful videos can be for providing helpful instructions for teaching or using a new software product!

Camtasia can also be integrated into your Microsoft Office applications (Excel and PowerPoint).  Apps are available for both PC and Apple products.

TechSmith Fuse:  Flexibility and versatility are possible when you install this add on that can capture content where ever you are.  Adding content to Camtasia, SnagIt, or TechSmith Relay is simple as you can see from the picture below:

techsmith-fuse

If you’re looking for a screen capture recording and editing package for your computer, Camtasia by TechSmith is worthy of your consideration and the price is very affordable.

For an additional nominal fee, you can purchase a maintenance agreement that will ensure you receive the latest updates free of charge during the subscription period.

What does this have to do with lean?  Written instructions are great and often necessary.  However, there are times when videos are much better suited to explain a given concept or task and usually require less time to view than reading and understanding an equivalent set of written instructions.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is at least that many and more.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics

 

The Point of No Return

The “Point of No Return” is a common expression that typically means you’ve reached an unrecoverable state if you continue to proceed with the current course of action.  When I clicked the “Publish” button for this post, I reached a point of no return (action).

From an accounting perspective, the term “Break Even” point is used to define the point where Total Costs equal Total Revenue.  The break even point translates to the quantity of parts that must be produced and sold to turn a profit.  Stock exchanges around the world serve as a constant reminder that investors are only concerned with PROFIT and return on investment (PROFIT).  In this context, a point of no return (profit) also exists.

Businesses exist for the customer or consumer.  Poor quality, missed delivery dates, short shipments, warranty returns, and poor customer service all lead to higher costs and may eventually cause customers to reach their “point of no return”.  Customers understand that the lowest price is not always the lowest cost option in the long run.  Business depends on repeat customers.

What’s the point?

In the simplest of terms, our actions must yield a return that is greater than the investment required to achieve it.  Delivering VALUE to the customer is one of the underlying principles of lean thinking and is measured by our ability to provide the highest quality products and services at the lowest possible cost, on time, delivered on time and in full.

This all sounds great on the surface but there will come a time where the cost to improve your systems and / or processes will exceed the return on investment – another point of no return.  Alternative, lower cost, solutions must be found to meet your continuous improvement objectives.

Where a significant capital investment is required, your company may require a payback period of one or two years.  A capital investment for a program that is soon to become obsolete is not a feasible option.  The point of no return (investment) is reached before any funding can even be considered.

The Bottom Line

Understandably, the team will become extremely frustrated when the very solution they proposed is rejected or declined.  While they may not doubt their own ability to provide viable solutions, they will doubt the company’s commitment to pursue excellence and continually improve.

For this reason, it is essential for the team to understand the reasons why.  It also underscores the need to identify and respond to improvement opportunities quickly and as early as possible during the launch cycle of any new system, process, or product.

Embrace Rejection

Rejection can sometimes be a gift.  As I have stated many times before, “There’s always a better way and more than one solution.”  Could it be that sometimes bad things happen for a good reason?

Rejection provides (forces) us with the opportunity to consider the present circumstances from a fresh perspective.  If the premise for the proposed solution was to “fix” the current system or process as it’s is now defined, perhaps a radically different and innovative system or process could better serve the company in the long term.

Is it possible that a new and lower cost alternative exists that could be at least as effective and perhaps even more efficient?  There are numerous examples of systems, processes, and technologies that exist today that were discovered by removing the limits that we unconsciously place on the scope of the problem that in turn limit the solutions we are able to develop.

The real problem with problem solving is the idea that the only solution is a “fix” to a system or process that is already be flawed from the onset.

Be Inspired

TED Talks are rife with examples of problem solving that yield radical and in some cases simple solutions.  The following TED Talks may serve to inspire you and your organization to look at problems and their solutions from a different perspective:

These TED Talks present problems on a different scope and scale than we may be accustomed to, however, the very discussion of alternatives alone should serve to inspire radical thinking that in turn inspires radical change.

You may have noticed from these TED Talks that some of the solutions presented were found outside of the context or circumstances from which the problem originated.  Is it possible that a “surrogate” solution exists elsewhere?

“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

The point of no return is significant and literally requires “out of the box” thinking.  Many companies no longer grace our communities or employ our neighbours, losing business and opportunities for growth to lower cost manufacturers and distributors to continually emerging global economy.  The difference could very well be how we embrace the point of no return.

Consider that Toyota, as a new company to the North American automotive market, implemented innovative supply chain,  inventory management, and production techniques to remain competitive.  Radical change and innovation does not imply higher cost or investment.  At best it should simply imply “different”.

Other companies like Apple and GE managed to change their futures under the leadership of Steve Jobs and Jack Welch respectively.  Was it always pretty? Likely not from the books I’ve read.  However, the outcomes are undeniable.

The courage of Steve Jobs to solicit support from Microsoft’s Bill Gates was an extremely radical decision at the time.  This video, “Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Microsoft – It’s Complicated“, clearly demonstrates the challenges faced in the relationship between Apple and Microsoft.  As for GE, I highly recommend reading “Straight From the Gut” by Jack Welch to best understand the radical changes in business and company culture during his tenure there.

Asking the right questions, open minds, radical thinking, and strong leadership coupled with a commitment to pursue excellence, continually improve, and solve problems may help everyone realize that the point of no return can be one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever receive.

To quote Albert Einstein, “A clever person solves a problem.  A wise person avoids it.” and so we … “look before we leap.”

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Versalytics Analytics