Book Notes #20: Lean Software Development by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck

Lean Software Development identifies fundamental lean principles and shows how they can serve as the foundation for agile software development that works.

Title: Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit
Author: Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck
Year: 2003
Pages: 236

In Lean Software Development, Mary and Tom Poppendieck identify seven fundamental “lean” principles, adapt them to the world of software development, and show how they can serve as the foundation for agile development approaches that work. 

Along the way, Lean Software Development introduce 22 “thinking tools” that can help you customize the right agile practices for any environment.

Better, cheaper, faster software development – you can have all three if you adopt the same lean principles that have already revolutionized manufacturing, logistics, and product development.

As a result, I gave this book a rating of 7.5/10.

For me, a book with a note 10 is one I consider reading again every year. Among the books I rank with 10, for example, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Overview of Lean Software Development

Lean Software Development shows software professionals how to achieve breakthrough quality, savings, speed, and business value by adapting the seven lean principles that have already revolutionized manufacturing and R&D.

Drawing on 25+ years of experience leading enterprise projects, the authors of Lean Software Development show how to use these principles to create agile processes that work – because they’re optimized for your environment. 

The development of Agile software requires innovation and responsiveness, based on generating and sharing knowledge within a development team and with the customer.

Agile software developers draw on the strengths of customers, users, and developers, finding just enough processes to balance quality and agility.

People using agile processes can refer to the 22 tools that Mary and Tom describe to understand why and how the most common agile processes work, or to construct their own agile process. 

Some key insights and learnings from Lean Software Development include:

 – The importance of understanding customer value and using it as a guiding principle for all development activities.

 – The importance of eliminating waste, such as overproduction, waiting, defects, over-processing, over-engineering, unnecessary motion, and unused talent.

 – The importance of building quality into the process from the start, through practices such as test-driven development and continuous integration.

 – The importance of continuous improvement and the use of techniques such as Kaizen to drive change.

 – The importance of flow and how to optimize flow through techniques such as Kanban and pull systems.

 – The importance of understanding and managing variability, and how to use techniques such as statistical process control to improve predictability and reduce risk.

 – The importance of building a culture of experimentation and learning, where teams are empowered to experiment, learn, and make decisions based on data.

The book emphasizes that Lean principles are not only beneficial to the software development process but also improve the overall business performance by delivering more customer value, faster and with less waste.

My Book Highlights & Quotes

“… Toyota and Honda had discovered a different way to avoid the penalty of incorrect design decisions: Don’t make irreversible decisions in the first place; delay design decisions as long as possible, and when they are made, make them with the best available information to make them correctly…”

“… It is, therefore, best to avoid this expectation, either by stating at the front that scope is negotiable or by defining scope at a high level so it is negotiable in detail…”

“… Somehow, the idea that variation is bad has found its way into software development, where people have tried to develop standardized processes to reduce variation and achieve repeatable results every time. But development is not intended to produce repeatable results; development produces appropriate solutions to unique customer problems…”

“… Increased application domain knowledge across the entire software development staff. Acceptance of change as an ordinary process and the capability to accommodate emergent design decisions. An environment that enhances communication to integrate people, tools, and information…”

“… Perceived integrity means that the totality of the product achieves a balance of function, usability, reliability, and economy that delights customers. Conceptual integrity means that the system’s central concepts work together as a smooth, cohesive whole…”

“… The economic benefit of the rapid flow of value through the value stream is also hard to measure, yet increasing flow is an excellent way to identify and eliminate the waste created by sub-optimizing measurements…”

“… Practices for one domain will not necessarily apply to other domains. Principles, however, are broadly applicable across domains as long as the guiding principles are translated into appropriate practices for each domain…”

“… The key to communication about complex systems is to hide details behind abstractions when a broad picture is desired and move to lower levels of abstraction to flesh out the details…”

“… In a service economy, quality does not mean conformance to a script; it means adapting to meet the changing expectations of many different customers…”

“… It seemed that everyone’s job existed solely to help the line workers, and the workers in turn were fully engaged in their jobs…”

“… Suppose a developer has a conversation with a customer about the details of a feature. The conversation should not be considered complete until it is expressed as a customer test…”

“… It may seem like writing tests slow down development; in fact, testing does not cost, it pays, both during development and over the system’s lifecycle…”

“… The simple mathematical fact working here is that variation is always amplified as it moves down a chain of connected events. A little variation in step one introduces a huge variation five steps later…”

In conclusion, Lean Software Development by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck is a game-changing book that shows how Lean principles can be applied to the software development process to deliver more value, faster, and with less waste. 

By reading Lean Software Development, you’ll learn how to focus on the customer, eliminate waste, build quality in, optimize flow, manage variability and create a culture of experimentation and learning. 

Lean Software Development is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their software development process, and it’s not just limited to software development, it’s a valuable guide for any business looking to improve its overall performance.

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