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Agile Noodle

I’m very lucky because there is a wonderful small restaurant right opposite to my apartment. They sell various noodles that taste great. Actually this restaurant is so famous that it attracts people from different areas of this city. Usually from 10:00 am there is already a long queue waiting for lunch. If you don’t get there before 11:00 am you might have to wait more than an hour before you get your noodles.

That bothers me a lot. I hate waiting for an hour and I hate going there at 10:00 am for lunch; it’s too early for me. I noticed that most customers order three popular noodles (I really have no idea on how to translate the names to English). Ordering any of the three takes the longest time. Unfortunately these three noodles are my favorites. Sometimes my wife and I will walk past to see if the queue is reasonable. Most of the time we have to give up and find another place for lunch.

Last week, all in sudden, we found there were less people waiting even during the rush hour. We were quite happy to see even between 11:00 am to 12:00 pm there appeared to be only 20 – 30 people waiting. We were quite interested on what happened to reduce the queue length by almost half. Hopefully they didn’t change their cooks and the taste is still attractive.

After investigation we actually found the result which was quite a big surprise to me. What I saw was that they improved their working process in an Agile way! I was really excited that I found a group of Chinese cooks are applying Agile delivery in a restaurant!

The big change I found was that they hung a big sign up on the entrance to announce the three most popular noodles are only served between 11:30 am t0 12:30 pm, and every day they only sell 100 bowls each. Here I saw is a fixed timebox with a good estimated capacity according to their historical data. 300 noodles every day is already a big number for that small restaurant, it’s reasonable and also understandable to the customers. No matter whether they realized it or not, they’re delivering noodles in Sprints!

Their new policy continues: in order to reduce the waiting time any customer interested in these 3 noodles can pre-order by getting a ticket with a number on it. They have a blackboard setting near the entrance to show the current orders, the current number being cooked, and the number they’ve done using chalks. To me this is an excellent Whiteboard system illustrating their velocity; it’s almost exactly the same as the Scrum task board with the ToDo, In Progress and Done columns. I didn’t have a camera with me to take a picture so I’ve drawn it on sticky note according to my memory.

It’s really cool to see Agile everywhere in our everyday life, especially in a small Chinese noodle restaurant, isn’t it?

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Ethan Huang (Hangzhou, China)

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