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13/100 - Eliminating Waste in Software Development: A Practical Guide to Lean Methods

Lean approach to software development

Lean software development is an approach that emphasizes the efficient and effective use of resources in the software development process. The goal of lean software development is to deliver high-quality products that meet customer needs while minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency. By focusing on continuous improvement and eliminating unnecessary steps, lean development helps teams deliver more value in less time. This approach has been gaining popularity in recent years, as it helps organizations stay competitive in a rapidly-evolving digital landscape. In this article, we will explore the principles of lean software development and how they can be applied to improve the performance of development teams.

In the previous blog we looked at 'What is Kanban and the differences between Kanban and Scrum'. In this blog and the next set of blogs, we will deep dive into understanding 'Lean approach to Software Development'.

History of Lean

Lean is a philosophy and set of principles for managing and improving processes. It originated in the manufacturing industry and was developed by Toyota in the 1950s as a way to increase efficiency and reduce waste. The goal of lean is to create value for the customer by identifying and eliminating waste in processes, and continuously improving them to increase efficiency and quality.

Over time, lean principles have been applied in various industries beyond manufacturing, including healthcare, construction, and agile software development. In the 1990s, the concept of "lean startups" emerged, which applied lean principles to the process of starting and growing a new business.

Today, lean thinking is widely recognized as an effective way to improve processes and increase efficiency. Many organizations have adopted lean principles and practices in order to reduce waste, improve quality, and increase customer satisfaction.

Lean Software development principles

Lean software development Principles

Lean development principles are a set of practices and methodologies that aim to eliminate waste, improve efficiency, and increase customer value in the software development process. By applying these principles, teams can create a process that is flexible, responsive to customer needs and delivers value in a timely manner.

  1. Define value

  2. Value stream mapping

  3. State of flow

  4. Establish pull

  5. Continuous improvement.

1. Defining value

Identifying and understanding the customer's needs and requirements, and ensuring that the software product development process is aligned with them. An example of this would be conducting user research and interviews to understand the customer's pain points and needs, and then using that information to guide the development process.

2. Value Stream Mapping

Analyzing the entire process, from idea to delivery, in order to identify and eliminate waste. An example of this would be creating a visual representation of the process, such as a flowchart or swimlane diagram, to identify bottlenecks and areas where improvements can be made.

3. Creating Flow

Ensuring that work moves smoothly and efficiently through the process, without delays or obstacles. An example of this would be using Kanban or Scrum to manage the work and identify blockers, and using pull-based systems to manage the flow of work.

4. Establishing Pull

Creating a system where work is pulled through the development process based on customer demand, rather than pushed through based on a predetermined schedule. An example of this would be using Scrum or Kanban, which rely on pull-based systems to manage the flow of work.

5. Continuous Improvement

Regularly reviewing the process and making improvements to increase efficiency and effectiveness. An example of this would be conducting retrospective meetings to identify areas for improvement, and using metrics such as lead time and cycle time to track progress and make data-driven decisions.

These principles work together to align the process with customer needs and continuously improve its efficiency and effectiveness. By applying these principles, a development team can create a process that is flexible, responsive to customer needs and delivers value in a timely manner.

These principles of lean software development are focused on ensuring that the software is built with integrity, and that the entire development process is optimized to deliver the maximum value to users in the shortest possible time.

7 wastes of lean software development

Lean wastes in Software Development

1. Partially done work

Any delayed feature loses previously spent time and makes the codebase less manageable. When a consumer asks a new feature and the company commits to developing it immediately, this is a common scenario. The team must then abandon its current project and begin working on the new feature. If the earlier effort is never resumed, then it was wasted.

2. Extra Processes

Any process step that does not add value, for example unnecessary documentation or excessive rubber stamping. When we adhere to tradition, we frequently write documentation because that has always been the case. Frequently, organisational policies dictate a collection of documents and their respective templates. If a substantial amount of paperwork remains unread, then the effort required to produce it was wasted.

3. Extra Features

Low-value features that are rarely used or never used. Occasionally, organisations implement a feature in an attempt to acquire a client, but fail to do so. The new functionality sits unused and increases the complexity of the application. As the feature is inactive, no value has been derived from it.

4. Task Switching

Changing tasks decreases productivity. One at a time is the quickest method for doing two tasks. Some developers prefer working on two projects simultaneously. Others have two projects underway because one is "blocked." A context switch occurs when you switch tasks and requires a brief amount of time to close what you were doing and restore your thoughts in the new work. The cost of these context flips increases with time and shortens the delivery window.

4. Waiting

Loss of time due to delays in starting, such as approval delays and dependencies. As soon as one person must approve the architecture/design/UX, etc., they become a bottleneck. The team cannot advance until consent has been received. If an item awaiting approval has a low priority, the team may have to wait for an extended period of time.

6. Motion

Time wasted moving objects or data between locations or searching for information on wikis.

If information is not labelled accurately or consistently, it is quickly lost. Imagine trying to locate information about shopping baskets when the file names are too lengthy and randomly named.

7. Defects

The influence of rework and the cost of repairing problems on the bottom line. As a result of the complexity of software development, bugs are unavoidable, but there are numerous approaches to limit their frequency, including testing and code reviews. A fault in a safety-critical system will incur a cost to repair, and it may also endanger lives.

Lean practices in agile software development

Other Lean Software Practices

  1. Value stream mapping

  2. Pull systems

  3. Queueing theory

Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is a lean software practice that involves creating a visual representation of the flow of materials, information, and value in the process. This allows teams to identify and remove waste, and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.

Pull Systems

Pull systems, also known as kanban systems, are another lean software practice that involve using visual signals, such as cards or boards, to manage and control the flow of work in the lean product development process. This allows teams to prioritize and schedule work based on user needs and feedback, and to avoid overloading the team with too much work.

Queueing Theory

Queueing theory is a mathematical approach to analyzing and optimizing the flow of work in systems, such as software development. It involves using mathematical models and algorithms to determine the best way to manage and prioritize work, in order to maximize efficiency and minimize wait times.

Lean Vs Six Sigma Vs Agile

Lean, Six Sigma, and Agile are all methodologies that are used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes, but they have different origins and focus on different aspects of process improvement.

Lean is a methodology that originated in manufacturing and focuses on minimizing waste and maximizing value. Lean principles are often applied in software development to improve the flow of work, reduce lead time, and increase customer satisfaction.

Six Sigma is a methodology that focuses on reducing defects and improving the quality of products and processes. Six Sigma uses statistical tools and data analysis to identify and eliminate sources of variation and defects.

Agile is a methodology for managing software development projects that emphasizes flexibility, rapid iteration, and customer collaboration. Agile methodologies, such as Scrum and Kanban, are designed to help teams deliver working software quickly and respond to changing customer needs.

While each of these methodologies has its own unique focus, they can be used together to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the software development process. For example, Agile helps teams deliver working software quickly, Lean helps teams minimize waste and improve flow, and Six Sigma helps teams reduce defects and improve quality.


Implementing Lean approach in Web3 Projects

Prioritizing user needs

By focusing on the specific needs of users and stakeholders, lean software development practices can help web3 projects avoid building unnecessary features or functionality. This can reduce waste by eliminating development time and resources that are not directly contributing to the success of the project.

Implementing continuous integration and deployment

By using automated tools to integrate and deploy code changes regularly, web3 projects can reduce waste by catching and quality issues early in the process. This can also improve efficiency by allowing developers to focus on writing new code, rather than spending time on manual testing and deployment.

Emphasizing testing and validation

Lean software development practices emphasize testing and validation as a way to catch and fix errors early in the development process. By validating assumptions and testing code changes, web3 projects can reduce this type of waste by catching and fixing bugs before they become more costly to fix.

Focusing on simplicity

By keeping the design and architecture of web3 projects simple, lean practices can help reduce waste by making it easier to understand, debug and maintain the code.

Emphasizing data-driven decision making

By using data to make decisions, web3 projects can reduce waste by avoiding unnecessary development time and resources. This can be done by using metrics to track key performance indicators and using that data to make informed decisions about the direction of the project.

Continuous improvement

By continuously evaluating and improving processes, web3 projects can reduce waste by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies in the process. This can also improve efficiency by ensuring that the team is always working on the most important tasks and focusing on areas where they can make the most impact.

Recommended Readings

  • The Lean Startup a must read book by Eric Ries

  • Resources from ASQ on lean.

  • A short video from Academic Gain Tutorials, explaining What is Lean Management?

Coming up in the next blog - 'What is Extreme Programming?'.

Note 1: This blog is part of a 100 Days of Learning Series on Web3 Project Management frameworks and best practices published on Program Strategy HQ. For more details on the 100 days of blogging campaign check out Blog 0.

Note 2: Reach out to info@programstrategyhq for any queries.

Note 3: Program Strategy HQ Disclaimer for Reference.



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