Here is today’s episode of the “Campfire Talks with Herbie”.
TameFlow Community Member: Ad Vermeulen
Name (and Company/Affiliation if desired)
My name is Ad Vermeulen, and I’m a director at A-dato responsible for implementation of our solution on behalf of our customers. A-dato is a software company based out of the Netherlands, near Amsterdam. The software we deliver to the market is called LYNX and LYNX TameFlow, which includes Buffer Management for projects, and services workflows Critical Chain Project Management, together with TameFlow
Who are you?
I graduated as an Industrial Engineer at the University of Eindhoven, which had a focus on logistics and production planning, including queuing theory and also about controlling WIP and determining the Order Release Moment. At that time I had no clue how this would get on my path again.
I also remember that I read “The Goal”, and I still have quite an old copy in my possession. However, at that time it was all about MRP I and MRP II, and TOC was not really featured as part of the curriculum.
I started my career in logistics in IT, working for so-called 3rd party logistics services providers, implementing and developing logistics software for distribution centers and warehouses, managing as IT manager a team of developers and support.
I remained in IT, and started working for software companies and IT services providers, including SAP, more with a business development responsibility.
Finally I joined A-dato in 2011 - I had to look this up on LinkedIn!
A-dato was founded by Kees Vermeulen, indeed my brother, who was developing a multi-project management software system called LYNX, which was inspired by TOC, and included a Critical Chain scheduling engine.
Historically A-dato (Kees Vermeulen) started even earlier by offering “embedded” solutions and components, to be integrated in other applications, specialising in advanced planning, scheduling and resource management solutions for maintenance organisations.
How did you get involved with Agile, Coaching, Organizational Performance - and in particular with TameFlow?
I guess organizational performance improvement was already part of the industrial engineering education, in which the first question always was “What is the problem?”, and then of course with the intention to come with solutions, conclusions and recommendations.
My first assignment, when I was in logistics, was about selecting and implementing a solution for route-optimization and planning. The topic Planning and optimization, or more general decision support systems, I found always very interesting.
When I decided to join A-dato it had all these elements: a solution that helped organisations improve in the field of multi-project planning or the flow of projects.
At A-dato we also had early customers who were in IT, software engineering and “knowledge work” and we realised that a more “agile” way of working and workflow management needed to become a part of our story.
We became aware of a TOC4U meeting in Germany, taking place in March 2012 in Darmstadt Germany. A gentleman named Mr. Wolfram Müller, was presenting at this meeting, with a title of: Flow Thinking with Critical Chain, Scrum and Kanban for making companies Agile.
So there must be our answer to what to do with Agile and Critical Chain.
We traveled to Darmstadt and listened to the presentation of Wolfram and also had a chat afterwards (all in German and our German wasn’t that good at that time).
We must clearly give the credits to Wolfram Müller as the person who inspired us and made us embrace Agile already in 2012.
We also had various meetings with Wolfram (he came to Holland as well) and during 2013 we started building and integrating an Agile component into LYNX.
It also turned out that Wolfram and Steve Tendon had been working together, resulting in the early publication of the original Tame the Flow book [which eventually became the “Hyper”] during the same year.I remember that we organised the first webinar called: “Tame the Flow, a fresh view on Agile / Scrum.”
That is when we became intrigued by the TameFlow Approach. We downloaded and read the book, with a special interest in the chapter about Kanban boards, states, tokens, etc.. Things we could turn into a software solution.
In 2014 we also got directly in touch with Steve and at the end of 2014 we renamed the LYNX Agile Solution to LYNX TameFlow.
Since then we have improved LYNX TameFlow, and also kept in touch with Steve.
In July 2015 our CTO traveled to Malta in order to exchange ideas as input for the LYNX TameFlow Roadmap.
Now we are 5 years down the line, and I can say we have implemented all the key elements of the TameFLow Approach within LYNX TameFlow, including the WIP tokens, waiting columns and of course Drum Buffer Rope.
During this time more and more customers started using LYNX TameFlow. And for the implementation and improvement of the LYNX TameFlow we are also working together with the team of Mr. Gijs Andrea in the Netherlands, which also resulted in several innovations to the LYNX TameFlow solutions, like special TameFlow buffers on cards.
But trust me, we are never ready and there is always room for innovation and improvement.
Are you currently (or do you intend) making a living in this sector? And with TameFlow?
For A-dato the TameFlow Approach implemented with LYNX TameFlow is a crucial part of our business.
Nowadays, almost without exception, customers are using LYNX TameFlow in combination with CCPM and project and portfolio management, but also independently of project planning and CCPM, for example to manage services workflows.
One of our first LYNX TameFlow customers is ORTEC, a well known software company producing advanced optimization software, who is using LYNX and the TameFlow Approach, to manage their development and maintenance workflows.
Here you see a ORTEC team during the first stand-up meeting, in front of a LYNX TameFlow screen:
The scope of ORTEC is both projects as well as services workflows. To learn more about what we did with ORTEC, see the Ortec Case Study.
Another great example is the Bruns case.
As the TameFlow Approach is designed for the knowledge work, it actually appeared to be possible to use a lot of elements also on the shop floor, which is new area of application:
Give us a typical day in your life!
OK! I think it may sound boring, and many days are developing the same as the previous day. I do have two kids, but they are living on their own for some time, and do not drive my daily routine anymore:).
But here we go. Any day I get up at 7AM, automatically. Take a shower and do some exercises.
Instead of two kids there are two cats, when I get downstairs they are the first to get attention in the form of food.
Then I get the newspaper from the mailbox, yes, still a paper version, and make myself 2 sandwiches, preferably with cheese and before starting eating I must not forget to bring my wife a cup of tea. If I forget….
At 8am I am ready to start and go upstairs again into my home office (we are still not supposed to go to the office). And each day at 9am we have the A-dato team meeting, in which we use the TameFlow style Kanban board ourselves. :)
After this meeting I try to avoid the trap of multi-tasking. But my focus should be supporting and helping our (new) customers and partners to get up to speed with LYNX, and as well (new) business development (producing proposals), while having on average three cups of coffee.
At 12 I’m hungry and I must eat something - sandwiches again, mostly at home, together with my wife.
My next target is to ensure I make some time to go out on my racing bike, every other day at the end of the afternoon (from 4 to 6) And depending on where the wind comes from (there is always a lot of wind in the Netherlands) I choose a route, starting against the wind. The goal is to be enough in shape so I’m just a little faster than my friends during the weekly Sunday morning tour.
After dinner I watch some TV (mostly the news) and in the evening I spend typically some hours on LYNX, meaning checking new versions and some marketing stuff.
What are the exceptions? In normal time I practice the German language, with a pensioned teacher in Amsterdam every Thursday morning. Not sure when this is possible again; I hope soon. Every Monday was an office day for me.
And I must not forget customer or new customer visits, which means traveling across Europe mainly.
At the end of the day and to fall a sleep, I read a little bit; normally this is in German, der Spiegel or a book I downloaded.
What makes you happy at the end of a day?
From a business perspective my answer must be to receive the confirmation that another company have selected A-dato and wants to get started with LYNX and/or LYNX TameFlow. That is the winning part, but just gives short moment of joy.
The other more important part is that we all together as A-dato team have been able to come up with a solution and software that really helps people in their work and collaboration.
The A-dato stack and architecture and technology (thanks to our development team and founder), gives us the room to be responsive, fast and agile ourselves when responding to customer needs.
So making customers happy with a great, nice, optimal solution, so they can improve, is a big part of the fun.
What’s the most important skill or insight you’ve developed while getting involved with this industry?
I would say:
People should be motivated and in the right mindset too, as a condition for a successful change and improvement, including implementation of the software tool. It does not start with the software…
From solution to whole product thinking. Functions and features is not enough, it is also about support, language support, ecosystem, etc.
It is always possible to add / improve and innovate, within the same scope. Like a racing bike: it has 2 wheels, gears, etc. ,: this industry always comes with something new, better, faster, which is meaningful to a user. Similar for our footprint: LYNX and LYNX Tameflow are not ready
What are the greatest challenges on your path to using/improving the techniques you favor in this sector? Where do you see TameFlow in this?
Market awareness and adoption, with respect to the TOC thinking and the TameFlow Approach. Companies and people need to see the potential, compared to other competing methods (Agile, lean, etc.), answering the why question.
What are the greatest rewards you’ve had (personally or professionally) or would like to receive in this industry?
The biggest reward is that we have been able to grow A-dato into a leading software supplier in the field of workflow improvement for projects and services, and that our decision to embark early on the TameFlow Approach has been instrumental in achieving this.
We are quite impressed with the array with well known customers we have today ourselves.
What do you want to learn from a community of peers, like the one here TameFlow Community site?
As a software company we would like to receive suggestions, get ideas as input for our continuous improvement and innovation process (roadmap).
If other TameFlow enthusiasts want to reach out to you, where do they find you? And what is your TameFlow Community handle?
My community nickname is ad_a-dato.
And by phone: +31 6 23561035
What question(s) would you like to ask Steve, or what topics would you like him to develop ( in relation to the TameFlow Approach)?
I’d like to hear Steve’s opinion on the following:
What is the impact of high variability in card sizes, with respect to managing flow (in non-software engineering we sometimes experience small cards, but also large cards, requiring a specialist). Is Little’s law as applicable as well in such situations?
How do you translate the volume of cards to be produced up to a product with a minimal business value, into a (remaining) duration, requiring specialist skills rather then a team with a certain productivity (velocity)
What about the shape of the feverchart (progress versus buffer consumption)– this is typically configurable, but where to put the lines between green, orange and red? And how steep should these line be. Or does configuration not really matter
Herbie did not talk!
Unlike most Campfire Talks, in this episode Herbie was just fascinated looking at the demo of LYNX TameFlow which Ad Vermeulen delivered instead of Herbie’s usual “soap box” whiteboard session.
No worries, Herbie will be back again in the future episodes!
If you found the topics in the “Campfire Talks with Herbie” interesting, there is much more to learn about them in the Tame your Work Flow, How Dr. Goldratt of “The Goal” would apply the Theory of Constraints to rethink knowledge-work management book.
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