Project Management

A Pragmatic Introduction to Lean Development

From the Manifesting Business Agility Blog
This blog concerns itself with organizations moving to business agility—the quick realization of value predictably and sustainably, and with high quality. It includes all aspects of this—from the business stakeholders through ops and support. Topics will be far-reaching but will mostly discuss FLEX, Flow, Lean-Thinking, Lean-Management, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, Test-First and Agile.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

How companies/teams succeed with Agile

One way Teams Fail With Agile and How to Avoid It

Why do organizations fail with Agile?

Piano tops and Agile

Asking Powerful Questions

Most introductions to Lean focus on a variety of principles such as the following from the Lean Enterprise Institute (note the acronym)

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Neglect of Human Talent (Unused talent)
  • Transportation
  • Inventory 
  • Motion
  • Excess Processing (over/extra processing

This is definitely a useful way of looking at Lean. But another way is to look at what these would suggest you look at, want to achieve and something you have to do to achieve it.


Attend to how workload relates to capacity. Workload should never exceed capacity. Doing so creates multi-tasking, delays and waste. This requires having a well-defined intake process and do portfolio/product management to ensure working on only the most important items.

Assess the efficiency of your value streams. The people in most value streams are multi-tasking due to them being in multiple value streams. This causes delays and waste. Have people allocated to only one project as much as possible.

How large are your batches of work? As a rule, smaller increments that realize value is better. Do your work in small increments and use iterative development to discover what’s needed. Decompose strategies into initiatives into small business increments. See Minimum Business Increments for more. 

Is collaboration taking place across the value stream?  Teams should not be geared towards local optimization but should be looking at improving the effectiveness of the value stream as a whole. Create a common cadence for planning, coordination and synchronization.  Institute DevOps or the equivalent across all value streams.

What is management’s role? Management needs to attend to improving the environment so that people can get their work done. Management must look up the value stream to see what the direction of the company is and then collaborate with those downstream to interactively build a great environment within which they can work. 

How long are your planning cycles? Plan in short cycles. Work on removing impediments to shortening the cycle. Work should flow from initiatives to realization of value. Consider whatever requires an increase in planning times to be an impediment and work to remove it. 

What is the quality of your product? Quality includes both internal (how it’s been built) and external (what customers think of it). Build quality in. Get clarity on specific acceptance criteria that can be used to validate what's being created before starting work. 

These suggestions are based around Inherent Simplicity. More on this at Dealing with Complexity by Creating a Bias For Simplicity 



Posted on: January 28, 2020 11:42 AM | Permalink

Comments (10)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Dear Al
Interesting this reflection on the theme: "A Pragmatic Introduction to Lean Development"

Thanks for sharing

The idea is to eliminate with MUDA, MURA and MURI

My question is:
- In the context of a project (with a specific time and delivering a unique product / service / result) how can it be implemented?

It seems to me more like an assembly line where the manufactured product is software

I don't think of Lean as suggesting we take an assembly line approach to software. First of all, sw dev is lie product development, not manufacturing. Second of all, they physical world is not like the virtual world - see

The way to do this is to first see how all of the things I mentioned about require a systems thinking point of view. Each can be improved in the context of the other.

A more fuller explanation is presented in FLEX which we are currently integrating with Disciplined Agile.

Great article, Al! This will help raise the perspective of those who believe lean is purely about waste elimination. Your list provides a more holistic, systems-level reflection which helps avoid the sub-optimization risks of waste myopia.

Thanks. It's interesting to note that these factors are based on the 7 inherent simplicity factors. These same can be used to see why Scrum and SAFe work when they do. SAFe, not so much working, but getting a start forward ;0)

Thank you. Appreciate the insights and perspectives.

Thank you very much. It was very helpful.

I think that breaking down one task so that it can be processed in a shorter cycle will contribute to improving development agility.
I also found that process fragmentation was an effective way to detect hidden lean tasks.

Takeshi - you're welcome and thanks for your comments.
Good points.

Thanks, Al,
Refreshing to see other ideas

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.


No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

- Abraham Lincoln