technology

The Art of Lean Software Development

At a recent internal technology summit, one of the mantras that was preached was Lean. I’m excited to see how this practically plays out. This is coming from the top down, which hopefully means real change will occur.

I just finished skimming through The Art of Lean Software Development, which I found in our company library. It’s a short read (about 100 pages). It provides a concise overview of the origins of Lean and then covers various practices that you can employ to incrementally adopt. The first few practices are more low-level and hands-on:

  • Source code management and scripted builds
  • Automated testing
  • Continuous integration
  • Less code

Those are pretty well understood and accepted, regardless of what specific methodology you are using. The second batch of processes that the book mentions are:

  • Short iterations
  • Customer participation

These practices are a little softer and require more team participation. They are more interesting to me since I have less experience with doing this on a team. Customer participation is particularly difficult to employ because it requires buy-in from many parties, and ones that developers don’t typically have access to&emdash;customers.

The book concludes with a single chapter about next steps, and mentions a few more areas to dig deeper in. It briefly talks about Kaizen, value stream maps, other lean techniques like Kanban. I think value stream maps and kanban are worth exploring for our team. There’s a certain benefit to visualizing progress, making it concrete.

Most of the content of the book was a review of what I’ve already read. My perspectives slightly changed about how Lean fits in with Agile. Originally, I put Lean underneath Agile as another methodology. But actually, Lean has different roots from Agile and the famous Snowbird meeting. And, as a methodology, it is more descriptive than prescriptive. It can be applied across business functions, and in fact, ought to be. That makes it even more exciting that we have a mandate from senior management to put this into practice.

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