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How one Lean Leader built a resilient process to launch new software, error-free

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

How Lean Leader Alberto Fernandez (Fall '22) challenged his own assumptions and built a robust, repeatable testing process to get stable software to staff as fast as possible.



Alberto Fernandez, San Francisco Public Library Web Services

Whenever the San Francisco Public Library Web Services team launches a new software, they first run the software through a series of tasks and tests. This testing is critical for the software to work properly.


However the former process was frustrating and overwhelming: Test cases were not reusable, and so the team had to rewrite tests every time a new one was needed. Different testers would handle them differently, leading to variability in how the tests were conducted. The result? Longer wait times between steps, no visibility into task completion, and unresolved or undetected bugs in deployed software.


Enter Lean Leader Alberto Fernandez: Alberto joined Lean Leaders in the Fall of 2022, working on improving software testing for the Web Services team.


After completing his current state assessment and root cause analysis, Alberto was able to define reasons for large wait times between steps, which were impacting the team's ability to complete the tests as efficiently as possible. Some of the root causes identified were around methods and best practices, knowing the current status of tests in flight, and knowledge sharing, and required solutions to around standard work to support ease of use and traceability.


The team was already planning to deploy a new issue tracking software, and the team hoped that moving tracking from Excel to Jira would address most, if not all, of the issues in the process. But in his current state analysis, Alberto found that while Jira would be able to make test cases more visible with a virtual Kanban board, it would not magically address the team's lack of standards.


To meet that need, Alberto proposed that the team create standardized test cases in order to avoid having to re-write them every time a new test was started, which will result in reduced wait times and a consistent approach. He also proposed to create standard training documents and guides, utilizing input from the rest of his team members, to ensure consistency across programmer analysts.

Alberto's process map and value analysis

Alberto sat down with his coach, Jenessa Rozier, to share his thoughts on Lean Leaders and the impact the training has had on his work


Jenessa: Before you started working through your project, what did you assume the solution was going to be?


Alberto: I knew we needed to be organized and track our progress, but the best we had were Excel sheets and "copy+paste". Whatever we knew we needed to reuse, we would just copy and paste it, or we would have to re-write it when starting a new test. Every time we started a new test, we would try to remember how it was done last time in hopes of similarly creating it. However, the difficulty with Excel is that it's just a bunch of tabs and cells, so it can easily get very messy. I didn't know what the solution should be, but I knew there had to be something better.


J: How did you feel before starting the training? Were there any expectations, questions, or assumptions you had about Lean Leaders?


A: I was really open to the idea of learning how to change processes, because I think sometimes we all get bogged down doing things the same way. I know that I would often get stuck in the routine without stopping to think if there's a better, more efficient way, and always staying in the "this is the way we've always done it" mentality. I was all for learning how to change the way I think and how I approach things.


I was especially open to changing my focus to thinking of the process first instead of individuals - that idea was not even on my radar prior to Lean Leaders. I would have previously thought, "This person must need more training, or something must be wrong with us and we must need to be more organized" and would have not have thought of it as a process issue. When you turn your attention to the process, you can make the process itself error-proof so it's not reliant on an individual person.

When you turn your attention to the process, you can make the process itself error-proof so it's not reliant on an individual person.

J: Thinking about your project from start to finish, walk me through your experience of creating your process map, identifying bottlenecks, and creating solutions:


A:When I first started, I asked myself "Where do I start?" Learning the tools really helped me with that - it was a completely new experience, and slowing down to really put thought into how we can do this better was helpful. For example, doing the Gemba Walk of my process, I realized I had never done that before! I had never really stopped to explain the process, to write it down, and create a diagram for it. As you're working through your project, it creates a reality of what you do and then allows you to question why. When completing the Value Graph, it challenges you to question if steps are really necessary or if we could do things differently. A lot of times we tend to put the solution first, but this process forces you to capture the current state, then come back to the solutions.

I had never really stopped to explain the process, to write it down, and create a diagram for it.

Making the Tally Chart also helped create metrics where we didn't have any. It was hard to understand how our process was performing - we weren't tracking that information. However, through the training, we started tracking that information using a Tally Chart and we were able to begin seeing our real-time performance. Gathering that data showed that we actually weren't that far off from what we thought and we were actually doing pretty well, but now we could see that point through data.


Thinking about our future state, we could take into account what other teams similar to ours were doing in order to help shape where we wanted to be. We could also incorporate the tools that I had learned through Lean and Agile and apply industry standards to our process. We could visualize what we wanted our future to look like - especially being able to create reusable test cases so we don't waste time rewriting things. Most importantly, we made sure to not forget to celebrate our wins!


J: What solutions have you implemented, or are currently working on, and what kind of improvements or changes have you seen as a result?


A: We needed to decide what tool we wanted to use in order to address most of our issues, and then determine what the learning curve might be to adopting that tool. We also needed buy-in to help the adoption of the tool, and soliciting feedback from team members was hugely important in this project. This also helped identify that we needed internal documentation to guide staff on using the new tool and making the process as simple and fool-proof as possible.

Alberto's ideas on an impact-effort matrix

Using the Impact-Effort Matrix and formulating the solutions as "If we.../Then we..." statements really clarified what each idea was, and the intended impact of that possible solution. It provided a structure, and focused us in on things that we knew were directly tied to root causes while having a visualized benefit. Having these clear statements has helped drive the process to implementing our ideas.


Overall, I feel like I'm receiving more feedback and input from the team. Before, it was hard to pull that feedback from others, but now they're more engaged and more willing. It seems the team is more comfortable with this process, and helping to make improvements and work together.


J: What has been the overall impact of the Lean Leaders training on you and your work?


A: The way I think of things and approached things has changed. A lot of times, I previously felt that issues were people-issues: either they're not getting it or understanding, or I'm not getting it or understanding. Shifting to process-blaming and not people-blaming is so helpful; if there is a process in place, or an error-proof way of doing things, anyone should be able to do it. For example, I want to make these test cases step-by-step instructions so that it's the same across the board; why would you not want to do that in the bigger picture of the overall process? Sometimes it's hard to zoom out to see that, but Lean Leaders has really helped changed my perception towards problem solving.


J: What was most valuable for you going through Lean Leaders?


A: I really enjoyed the training, and for me, it was a chance to come out of my comfort zone a little bit and engage with the rest of the cohort. Having others ask me questions about my process and having to explain what I do, that experience made me a better learner. You don't often get many chances to talk in depth about what you do, and having to articulate my process and put it into words - that takes you out of auto-pilot and then allows you to question what you do. You also get other perspectives, and allowing others to ask the "why" helps to challenge your process. All the tools and techniques were also very helpful. I'm very visual, and seeing metrics and virtual post-its helped to make things clearer and less overwhelming. I'm motivated to continue using these tools towards other projects and processes, and finding opportunities to problem solve.


Having dedicated support from the Lean Leaders trainers was very valuable and positive. I feel like I changed a lot, my way of thinking and working changed, and the training was engaging. I felt supported, and found all the information useful. Working on my actual process and a real problem kept me hooked - I was actually making an impact on something real in my work.


Are you ready to level up your problem-solving skills and make a lasting impact in your organization? Join us for our next cohort of Lean Leaders - an immersive, multi-day experience where you'll learn practical problem-solving tools derived from Lean, Six Sigma, Design Thinking, and Agile methodologies. Registration deadline is March 22 - REGISTER NOW!








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