Introduction to Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems

Last year I took myself through a crash course on Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems in preparation for an in-house presentation.  I learned a bunch.  In this series, I’ll be sharing what I learned with you.

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If your career looks anything like mine, you have probably been affiliated with a company or two which pushed requirements gathering and documentation to the nth degree. To add insult to injury, they probably added planning process (documentation, requirements, policies, meetings, committees) to the extent that it possibly retarded any progress.

In my opinion, the typical company resembles the quote from Tom DeMarco. It isn’t enough just to do things right – we also had to say in advance exactly what we intended to do and then do exactly that.

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In the 1980s, Toyota turned the tables and revolutionize the automobile industry with their approach of “Lean Manufacturing.”

A massive paradigm shift hit factories throughout the US and Europe. Mass production and scientific management techniques from the early 1900’s were questioned as Japanese manufacturing companies demonstrated that ‘Just-in-Time’ was a better paradigm. The widely adopted Japanese manufacturing concepts came to be known as ‘lean production’.

Lean Thinking capitalizes on the intelligence of frontline workers, believing that they are the ones who should determine and continually improve the way they do their jobs.

Lean puts main focus on people and communication – if people who produce the software are respected and they communicate efficiently, it is more likely that they will deliver good product and the final customer will be satisfied.

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In time, the abstractions behind lean production spread to logistics, and from there to the military, to construction, and to the service industry. As it turns out, principles of lean thinking are universal and have been applied successfully across many disciplines.

Lean has been adopted by companies including Dell, FedEx, Lens Crafters, LLBean, SW Airlines, Digital River and eBay.

Lean thinking got its name from a 1990’s best seller called The Machine That Changed the World : The Story of Lean Production. This book chronicles the movement of automobile manufacturing from craft production to mass production to lean production.

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Tom and Mary Poppendieck, that is.  Here’s one of their books: Implementing Lean Software Thinking: From Concept to Cash

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Our in-house presentations are supposed to run no more than 45 minutes.  I really cranked and got through my 87 slides in just under an hour.

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Of course, I had to cheat a little – I only covered the 7 principles and a single practice.

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In the next part of the series, we’ll dive into Principle #1: Eliminate Waste.

And I am going to be a little obnoxious about listing my Lean and Kanban references with every series post.  The references are great and they deserve this sort of attention.

Comments

  1. Wonderful site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get advice from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!

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