Lean software development is an Agile framework that aims to deliver quality software by enabling continuous feedback, time and resource optimization, and waste elimination. Lean Software Development (LSD) was invented by Toyota and was initially known as the Toyota Production System. The invention revolved around the lean approach to managing the production and assembly of units, and the objective was simple — minimize waste and maximize customer value.
The benefits of the lean Agile framework include:
- Reduced time-to-market
- Eliminates any process/task/code that complicates the software
- Reduces cost
- Enables collect ownership
For adopting the approach, it is essential to understand the principles of lean software development. This write-up discusses all seven in detail.
7 Principles of Lean Software Development
Let’s discuss the seven principles of lean software development in detail:
- Eliminate Waste
Waste is anything that does not add to the software quality. It is invaluable and should be eliminated at every stage of software development. Eliminating cost also helps reduce the software development cost to a large extent.
The most common forms of waste in software development include:
- Code anti-patterns, i.e., unnecessary code blocks that do not affect software’s functionality and make the code complicated
- Lack of or poor communication among the stakeholders and within the development team
- Features that do not add value to the software, i.e., the “could-haves” or the “would-haves” ones
- Unwanted dependencies among the teams
- Boat anchors, i.e., software or hardware that is not useful for the software under development
- Create Knowledge
This principle ensures that the entire development team has access to the tools and resources required to build quality software products. Having well-structured documentation is one way to do it, and creating a workspace that promotes upskilling and reskilling would be another.
Learning can be enhanced through:
- Conducting retrospectives, i.e., sessions that revisit old projects to understand what worked and what didn’t
- Having predefined engineering standards in place
- Conducting mob programming sessions
- Regular developer training
- Respect People
Respect is an important part of any job. Treating the development team with respect and maintaining regular communication with them is essential. And, moreover, respect is synonymous with appreciation. With respect in place, your team will ensure that they perform their duties diligently and efficiently.
Some of the common ways that help create a respect-oriented culture include:
- Two-way communication within the development team
- Proactively responding to concerns and queries
- Appreciating the development team whenever they perform exceptionally
- Balanced responsibilities within permissible work-in-progress limits (WIP)
- Build Quality Through Testing
Developing quality products should be a primary goal of the software development team. The one standardized way to achieve quality is to enable continuous testing and feedback in the software development process.
The best practices to ensure quality delivery of software products include:
- Implement Agile testing strategies
- Implement CI/CD pipeline for enabling automated integration and delivery
- Implementing hotfixes wherever necessary, i.e., a code snippet that acts as a patch to fix the identified bug
- Implement pair programming, i.e., two programmers sit at the same system to accomplish a task. Where one programmer writes the code, the other one reviews each line of code simultaneously.
- Decide as Late as Possible
The crux of this principle is to base decisions on facts and truths rather than on assumptions, even if it delays the decision-making process. In simple words, this lean software development principle promotes informed decision-making.
On the other hand, abrupt decisions lead to added complexities, technical debts, and increased code refactoring efforts.
Here are some tips on how to enable informed-decision making:
- Gather all the data and insights around the subject under consideration
- Involve stakeholders, product owner, product manager, and the development team (designers, developers, testers, DevOps experts, business analysts) when making a critical decision
- Specify a set timeline for making decisions before sharing it across
- Ensure that the software aligns with the business requirements and everyone agrees to accommodate the emerging ones
- Deliver as Fast as Possible
Ensuring a faster time to market is essential for maintaining a competitive edge and monopolizing the market. However, this does not imply that you make hasty decisions. Instead, this principle promotes identifying and addressing impediments leading to delayed development.
Here are some tips that help in ensuring faster delivery:
- Effective management of the product backlog
- Maintaining an optimal Work in progress (WIP) limit
- Analyzing and managing cost of delay
- Effective product backlog refinement
- Enabling collective ownership across the team
- Promoting mob programming, i.e., where the entire team works on the same item and at the same time to solve a problem at hand
- Maintaining an agreeable sustainable pace at which the team can work without resulting in a burnout
- Optimize the Whole
Defects can build up quickly, and managing them can get tricky if the development team doesn’t address them at the end of every LEAN sprint. Moreover, it leads to accumulated technical debt that, in turn, affects software quality.
By focusing on optimization, you can certainly avoid the common mistakes in the software development process.
Some of the best practices for optimization include:
- Focus on identifying bugs at the end of every time-boxed LEAN sprint.
- Conduct regular software testing and reviews
- Conduct daily standups that focus on what the team members did yesterday, what they plan to work on today, and what challenges are they facing
- Daily refactoring should be a standardized practice.
- Follow the 80–20 rule, i.e., the development team should use 80% of their time to write new code and the remaining 20% on refactoring the pre-written code
Lean software development is a popular Agile framework that helps in delivering quality software products. This piece covered all the seven lean software development principles in detail. These principles are the foundation of lean development and help adapt to the lean practices at scale.
To start implementing Lean practices in your software development projects, understanding the underlying principles is the first step forward in the right direction. The seven principles that we talked about include: optimize fast, create knowledge, respect people, build quality through testing, deliver as fast as possible, decide as late as possible, and optimize the whole.