Lean Software

As IÂ’ve discussed here before, Lean manufacturing, typified by Toyota and HondaÂ’s production system of the 1980s, was one of the most influential precursors to agile development practices. Specifically, LeanÂ’s emphasis on ongoing evaluation of the teamÂ’s performance, constant pursuit of process improvement, and continued waste elimination can be directly observed in agileÂ’s tenets of incremental and iterative inspection and adaptation. Tony Baer, an analyst who covers agile, discussed how Lean has become a hot topic of discussion of late among the agile community. According to Baer’s post, this debate boils down to two arguments: “First is the contention that value stream analysis will add unnecessary bottlenecks, and second is that software development is a special case to which manufacturing metaphors do not apply.”

Baer’s take on these issues tends to align with my own thinking. Firstly, he acknowledges that it does seem a little contradictory for a development methodology that privileges a reactive approach to emerging conditions to place such an emphasis on value stream analysis. However, he still acknowledges the value of this kind of analysis. In the case of the latter argument, Baer cites a concern among developers that software development is categorically different from any other kind of construction or development process that occurs in the real world. Certainly, such criticisms are correct: Software development is not governed by a stable set of physical properties like, say, bridge building is. However, Lean’s values—as described above—are all applicable to project management, regardless of what is being produced. After all, Lean is essentially a philosophical approach, in which teams and organizations commit to continuous improvement—by reflecting on processes and taking whatever steps necessary to improve them.

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This post was written by admin on September 29, 2009

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