Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lean software development: a concept born of lean manufacturing

What is lean software development?

The concepts of the lean manufacturing are applied for various kinds of domains like lean supply chain, lean enterprise, lean solutions, and lean consumption. Recently, lean software development becomes popular in the IT industry[2]. The book of the same name was written by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck in 2003[3]. The most famous methodology of lean software development is agile software development that is based on iterative and incremental development in a short term, wherein requirements and solutions evolve through team-collaborations[4]. For example, in agile software development, a small group comprising 3-5 members develops software quickly by trial and error. Reflecting the reactions from customers and repeating this short-term development process, the developing software reaches the client’s ideal. 

The book: Lean Software Development
Source:Lean Software Development[5]

The major similarities between lean manufacturing and lean software development are as follows[1].

  • An aim to streamline processes
  • A customer-focused concept
  • A rapid responses to change

What kinds of projects are suitable for lean software development?

In my eight-year work experience as a system engineer, lean software development projects had characteristics in common. First of all, a project consisted of a few team members. Secondly, each member could play multiple roles such as a programmer, a system engineer, and a project manager. Thirdly, a project adopted a novel technology. Finally, a project was new for a client. One of the examples is that a team in my division developed the new global recipe management system for a Japanese chemical company five years ago. It was a quite new attempt because no one had developed this kind of system in Japan so far. In this project, while well-formatted documents were not used for communication between the development team and the client, proto-type systems and rough instruction documents like help manual were utilized. This approach accomplished the perfect system for the client quickly, eliminating inefficiency and waste such as time and effort in communication.


  • Do you have system development experience based on lean software development?
  • Please think about pros/cons regarding lean software development.
  • What is the major difference between lean manufacturing and lean software development?


1.Lean Manufacturing vs. Agile Software Development | Peter Anthony. (2011, September 13). Peter C. Anthony

2.Waters, K. (2010, August 16). 7 Key Principles of Lean Software Development | All About Agile. All About Agile | Agile Development Made Easy!

3. Poppendieck.LLC. (n.d.).Poppendieck.LLC
Retrieved February 5, 2013, from http://www.poppendieck.com/

4. SAD, t. s. (n.d.). Agile/Lean Documentation: Strategies for Agile Software Development. Agile Modeling (AM) Home Page: Effective Practices for Modeling and Documentation

5. Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers by Mary Poppendieck - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists . (n.d.). Share Book Recommendations With Your Friends, Join Book Clubs, Answer Trivia

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