Lean thinking is a framework that has long been used in the industrial industry. It is a business methodology that is based on Japanese manufacturing principles, specifically the Toyota Production System.
Today, the application of lean thinking techniques has spread beyond the manufacturing business and has gained traction in the service and technology industries. Indeed, an increasing number of project managers in charge of software development are employing lean ideas and methods to better their software products.
So, how can lean thinking benefit more businesses in the software development industry? Is lean software development the most effective method for achieving continuous improvement? We’ve given you an overview of lean software development by delving into lean principles and lean practices that you can adopt in your firm right now.
Every month, “revolutions” emerge in the world of software. Whether in software development or project management, each movement in IT appears to be called a “breakthrough,” transforming the term into a buzzword that lacks meaning. However, big innovations do arrive on the web now and then, and it might be difficult for them to cut through the noise and catch your attention.
As a result, we’ll present one of them today: lean software development. This game-changing methodology has dramatically transformed the whole value chain in IT while being largely unknown to many entrepreneurs.
What is Lean Software Development?
Toyota, the Japanese automotive powerhouse, pioneered the notion of lean in general to decrease waste in production; nonetheless, it quickly grew explosively popular and was applied, among other things, too numerous skills in the IT sector.
The book by Tom and Mary Poppendieck introduced us to lean development as a separate technique, which has since been developed upon by an ever-growing body of literature.
“Lean development entails getting rid of everything that isn’t required.”
As the word implies, it seeks to eliminate anything extra, all the fat, from software engineering. Its ideas are very similar to Agile development, and some belief the two approaches to be inseparable. However, while acknowledging the similar principle, others argue that lean is more convertible in the development approach.
Overall, there are seven Lean software development principles, each of which aims to speed up delivery and provide more value to the end-user:
- Eliminating waste,
- Improving quality,
- Amplifying knowledge,
- and Delaying Commitment
- Respecting people and delivering on time
- Optimising the whole process
- Lean employs the following tools to achieve them:
Inventory control. A minimising the number of operations running simultaneously by employing a theory of constraints and queuing theory.
Kanban is a full project management technique that prevents the development process from being overburdened by restricting the number of activities that can be accomplished simultaneously.
Value stream mapping — a way of visualising the whole development cycle, from a client request to a deployment stage, that displays and helps improve the time spent on waiting and actual processing.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of the seven lean software development commandments:
1. Waste Reduction
The first rule of Lean engineering is waste minimisation, which determines the overall purpose of the system. The system, for the most part, attempts to combat these nine categories of waste.
- Unneeded features and code
- There are more chores in the log than can be performed.
- Delays in the design process
- Uncertain requirements
- Communication breakdown
- Problems with quality
- Bureaucracy is unnecessary and debilitating.
- Duplications of data
- Costs for the aforementioned
Project Managers have frequent meetings after each small iteration to identify and reduce waste. They let team members report progress, identify bottlenecks, and recommend changes to execute during subsequent iterations, facilitating learning and deploying code enhancements in tiny, manageable increments.
2. Investing in Quality
Efficient quality management is also a guiding concept in the lean development approach, as problems result in many sorts of waste. For example, repetitive code testing, recording errors, and resolution require time and raise development costs; lean aims to handle such issues before they occur.
Many methods are utilised in lean and other associated agile development types to guarantee that quality is maintained throughout the process. The engineering is maintained adaptable. Each short iteration, each loop, is immediately followed by an assessment. Test-driven programming flips the traditional “develop, then test” paradigm on its head. Tests are prepared before code so that an engineer can figure out all possible scenarios while working, knowing exactly how the features’ criteria will be tested.
3. Enhancing one’s knowledge
Lean software development evolved from lean manufacturing, where the end objective was always a streamlined, standardised pipeline production that required minimal knowledge and only minor tweaks. As a result, when the notion of “amplify learning” from lean was applied to the physical company, it was a game-changer.
However, in software engineering, the necessity of learning has never been in dispute, and the lean development approach may have merely demonstrated it once again. Engineers reflect on the code as soon as it is written and then apply the lessons they have learnt in subsequent revisions. That is true of all agile and lean techniques.
Lean methodology frequently employs paired programming to guarantee that specific expertise is not gathered just by one engineer producing a specific piece of code.
Aside from that, learning is accelerated through frequent code reviews, meetings, and metrics based on relevant data across teams. As a client, you have the opportunity to provide input to the development team after each iteration; gathering this data and tailoring future efforts to your needs is critical to all lean developers.
4. Postponing commitment
It occurs or rather used to happen, frequently in conventional project management, that your programme, although perfectly satisfying the spec, turns out to be unsuited for the market by the delivery date. This is because too many changes had occurred since your requests – in the business environment, in the technologies used by your rivals, and in the market’s overall direction, developments that had not been addressed during the development period.
The lean software development technique recognises this hazard. It always allows space for development by deferring irreversible judgments until all necessary testing is completed and as much information as possible is acquired; until you’ve thoroughly evaluated and studied your needs and there are no uncertainties about their relevance.
The technique constantly aims to build adaptable software so that engineers may act on it without destroying what has been done previously when new knowledge becomes available. Because all new ventures nowadays are bound to experience uncertainty, the significance of this cannot be overstated.
5. Prompt delivery
Historically, precise and long-term planning was the key to corporate success. Only when you had properly thought out and agreed on each part of your strategy, as well as set precise targets and a pace of development, were you deemed ready to join the software market.
However, as reality has shown, such an approach frequently results in disaster. First, it required developers to spend excessive time developing massive, monolithic systems crammed with unnecessary features. Second, it limited their ability to modify the programme to the ever-changing environment and customer requirements.
As a response, lean engineers developed the notion of MVP (minimum viable product) and the entire opposite philosophy: create rapidly, contain little functionality, and get a product to market as soon as feasible. Then, see the reaction.
This method lets you progressively improve a piece of software based on input from real consumers while discarding everything that isn’t useful.
6. Having regard for the team
Lean software development is a system that aims to empower rather than manage team members. It does more than create fundamental human respect; it instils trust in each project. Engineers are given the authority to make crucial development decisions based on what they learn while building code and their judgement. But, of course, they must be experienced enough to do so.
This method adds significantly to the speedier deployment of modifications to the software required to reflect changes in the environment and keep your developers engaged. And what is more crucial than the motivation of the team?
Setting up a collaborative environment and maintaining the proper balance of control inside the project, on the other hand, is difficult. Developers should be allowed to conduct their work and make changes that they believe are essential. Still, they should also be required to report on their decisions and explain the strategy they intend to follow to management and, more significantly, to you – the customer. Finally, you are in command of the entire course.
7. Improving the whole value chain
According to Mary and Tom Poppedniecks, sub-optimising is one of those terrible traits that frequently occurs in conventional IT teams, although fruitless. Managers tend to divide each problem into several constituent sections, which they then have their teams repair independently rather than optimising complete systems. Lean software development rejects this and advocates emphasis on the whole value chain. Most businesses choose the finest people for each project and arrange them into complete, stand-alone teams. That way, there are no delays, disturbances, or miscommunications, which would undoubtedly occur if project participants were dispersed throughout several departments.
Lean principles allowed for the optimisation of team workflow, the creation of unity among all project participants, and the installation of a feeling of shared responsibility and shared objectives, all of which translate into improved performance.
Although the lean-agile approach offers a customer-focused, flexible structure to software development, the people make it work. When choosing a team to design your application, seek expertise, experts devoted to continuous improvement and qualified enough to represent the key ideas of Lean methodology – producing as much value as possible in the shortest period and in the most efficient way possible.