Should we B&B software development?

My last post on the topic (Let’s not Travelodge software development) may have seemed anti-Lean/Agile. It’s actually the opposite! It’s because I’m so passionate about them that I wrote that post to try and get people thinking where we are going with all this. I used Travelodge as an example of Lean / Agile taken too far, and as I’ve hinted, I see this in my work occasionally… So what’s the answer? Not surprisingly, Lean and Agile, but from a different view.

As I hinted in that post, personally I’ll be doing B&B’s again, and it’s the answer in so many ways. How? Do you like the B&B in the above photo? You should – it’s rated the number one in Horsham, only gets 5* feedback on TripAdvisor and costs about the same as that Travelodge I stayed in! It’s only a few minutes out of Horsham, but it would easily be worth a cab fare extra.

If you follow the analogy back to Software, I’m “The Business”. I have a need, accommodation that I need to solve at a reasonable price. Given a choice in what seems to me an unknown field, I go with a brand but am disappointed as I find a product which has been BadAgiled out of existence to the “threshold of revolution” – i.e. it’s quality is just good enough to stop me cancelling the contract (hey – my ego’s at stake here).

This is where “The Real Business” and I split. I know I made a mistake and am not afraid to publicly talk about it, acknowledge it and learn from it. TRB though have a (probably quite large group) ego though, so they can’t admit that they were wrong – there’s so much at stake on the table… So, they do what Einstein defined as insanity – the same thing, expecting a different result. Sometimes they’ll try a different outsourcer to give the illusion of action, but they’ll still have the same process and flawed thinking in place so I don’t need to explain what will happen.

Back to our B&B’s – good one’s are mostly quite Lean and Agile, for the simple reason that they directly relate to the owners income, and that the owners generally want a reasonable lifestyle, which means not spending too much time running the B&B.

Enter a Lean / Agile process!

If you watch the way a good B&B works, they have developed their own systems, limit WIP (especially for breakfast), have good feedback loops and quite often have Information Radiators. Their processes are tailored for their establishment and aligned to their personal brand. Looking at the bedroom shot, you can see that the owner, house and brand are all aligned – it’s the truth.

Now, let’s remind ourselves of the TL equivalent. Is there any comparison? @JenniferSertl made a very good point regarding branding and process, namely that Bic and Mont Blanc could both use Agile / Lean successfully with their own brands, which is correct.

However, if we look at part of Travelodge’s Mission statement:

The reason that more people don’t stay in hotels is simple
– they just can’t find a good quality hotel where they want to
stay, at a price that’s right for them.

Travelodge’s objective is to make hotels available to everyone
by consistently offering our customers great value hotels where
they want to stay.

So to follow up the second paragraph, to me (totally subjective) that hotel was not great value. To be great value, would of been £40-50 and I’m sure they still could of made a profit. Given what you know now though about B&B’s in Horsham, would you really want to stay there?
NOTE: One thing I should note is that the staff at the Travelodge were very helpful and positive and really turned what could of been a horrible stay in to a tolerable one – that wasn’t due to them though, it was due to poorly gathered requirements, using a bad process to transform them in to a bad “architecture”, carefully nurtured by a total lack of feedback from staff and probably guests to form a distorted implementation of their brand. Sound familiar? ;-)

Finally, to answer Jennifer’s point re pens – I don’t have a problem with Bic making pens using Lean / Agile or any other process. What I do have a problem with is Parker making them L/A and allowing(?) the mechanism to distort their quality to those of Bic or even worse!

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