How Much of Lean Software Development is a Cultural Shift?

A truly agile development team refines how work is managed as well as how it gets done. The literal concept of agile development means working through iterations rather than through sequences.However, the spirit of agile is cultural as well as procedural – if your company does not make lean software development a lifestyle, your teams will lose time and efficiency constantly redeveloping methods that should become automatic very quickly.

We can take a look at how different corporate cultures invoke lean principles through different mindsets and end up with completely different results.

Lean Platforms Do Not Make Your Company Agile

The number one concern of agile software development is the removal of barriers that are normally in the way of developer talent. Every company attracting top talent is already signed up with Microsoft Azure or one of its competitors from IBM or GE. However, developers who run these tools devoid of an authentic culture of lean management within a company will soon find that clunky tradition may limit the usefulness of these powerful platforms. Some companies, especially enterprise-level companies, would much rather deal with the devil they know than the angel they don’t.

There is very little that Azure can do if a company does not allow its developers the freedom to utilize its robust development or deployment options remotely, for instance. Lean software development principles are based around the notion that everyone is working within the auspices of the psychologies and egos of everyone else. If the biggest ego in the room belongs to a traditionalist C-suite executive with final say over development options, you are going to have a problem.

Starting Small, Moving on Data

A smaller startup may have a much easier time shifting its entire culture at once into a lean methodology. However, if your company has more than one bona fide department, someone is going to have to employ the agile iterative mindset to convincing decision-makers that lean software development tenants are meant to be more than the weekly meeting’s intellectual exercise.

Leaders within the company who are moving the culture towards lean software development should start small. Begin with one department or one project, hopefully one that is controlled by forward thinking team members with a bit of autonomy. Base your results on hard data so that the true advantages of lean software development can be quantified and presented to skeptical department heads across the company. If you are trying to move into lean, you can certainly convince your counterparts more readily with metrics and KPIs that are common within the company. You can then translate these results into the lingo of lean software development.

KPIs Everyone Can Understand

Measuring the results that come from lean software development can take many forms. Here are some of the benefits that everyone will understand.

  • Response time – Once your decision-makers see that your clients are receiving software with shorter lead times, they are much more likely to give you the freedom that you need to cut away the fat in your processes. Beginning with a bloated process that you know you can easily trim is a great way to increase your leverage in other processes.
  • Decreased costs – If you can minimize the number of software iterations between rollouts, you have a good chance of decreasing costs within the company. If you have a bit of leverage, you may be able to redirect these funds into your other lien efforts.
  • Higher customer loyalty – Lean software development tends to create a culture of lower customer service requests and less resource waste. Employees also have a higher morale because they are not wasting time in bloated meetings or needless bureaucracy. All of these things eventually lead to higher customer retention rates, which can shave anywhere from 80 to 90% off of your marketing spend.

The Lean Software Development Endgame

Being able to address your software in the context of a stream of value helps everyone involved do better business. Your development team is more relaxed, knowing they will have the time they need to create elegant processes. Your clients are happier, understanding that your processes take future contingencies into account while providing practical, on time releases. These are noble goals; just realize that other traditions may have accomplished the same thing in previous business generations. These traditions and the people who saw them work die hard.

Take it upon yourself to prove the mettle of lean software development through hard data. Do not let corporate get away with simply buying the latest cloud service tool expecting a productivity miracle two hours after the first subscription payment goes through. Make them understand that lean software development is a corporate lifestyle, not a quick fix or a Band-Aid that you take off after it heals your wound. This is definitely a long journey, but it is one that you and your colleagues will share quite a few beers and high-fives over after you have won the day (and the month, and the quarter, and the year).