Review: Leading Lean Software Development

Leading Lean Software Development: Results are not the point (2009) is the third book about Lean Software from Mary and Tom Poppendieck. Previously they wrote  Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash (2006) and Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit (2003).

In a very clear progression they’ve gone from a toolkit where all the underlying principles are defined to implementation and then leadership. Too bad I only see this now after reading the last book first.

In Leading Lean Software Development they present 24 frames from which to view the software development process in terms of leadership. These frames represent manifestations of leadership across different aspects of the development process. Not one person is expected to fulfill all these leading roles. In fact the frames are grouped in fours and assigned to different leaders, with some overlap.

The identified leaders are the Product Champion, the Competency Leader, the Manager as Mentor and the Front-Line Leader.

The frames are divided as follows

Product Champion
  • Frame 1:  Customer Focus
  • Frame 2:  System Capability
  • Frame 3:  End-to-end flow
  • Frame 4:  Policy driven waste

Competency Leader

  • Frame 5:  Essential complexity
  • Frame 6:  Quality by construction
  • Frame 7:  Evolutionary development
  • Frame 8:  Deep expertise

Product Champion

  • Frame 9: Proven Experience
  • Frame 10: Level Workflow
  • Frame 11: Pull Scheduling
  • Frame 12: Adaptive Control

Manager as Mentor

  • Frame 13: Visualize Perfection
  • Frame 14: Establish a Baseline
  • Frame 15: Expose Problems
  • Frame 16: Learn to Improve

Front-line Leader

  • Frame 17: Knowledge Workers
  • Frame 18: The Norm of Reciprocity
  • Frame 19: Mutual Respect
  • Frame 20: Pride of Workmanship

Leaders at all levels

  • Frame 21: From Theory to Practice
  • Frame 22: Governance
  • Frame 23: Alignment
  • Frame 24: Sustainability

There is of course a great deal of wishful thinking in all this.  A project with this quality of resources available at all levels is unheard of in my world.

Nonetheless aiming for excellence is the only way to get closer to it which is actually the point made in Frame 13.  Even if your organisation is not ready or aware of  Lean, there are things you can personally do to improve your current project or at least make yourself a better professional. You must see yourself through these frames and become one of the leaders, regardless of what your actual position is.  Don’t be satisfied with simply ‘doing your job’. Your mission is to deliver quality software and have happy customers, even if you have to step out of your comfort zone.


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