Lean Methodology in Software Development – A Complete Guide


What is Lean Methodology? Definition, Benefits And More lean methodology

Any business should always strive to cut out any excessive process to optimize the most of its time frame. The sole focus of the lean methodology is to cut out any process that doesn’t significantly impact the process.

And today, we’ll learn all we can about this highly efficient software development methodology in all its conserved glory.

Definition of The Lean Methodology

The idea of lean thinking always starts with the customer. The two main questions that a lean approach always raises are:

  • What does the customer value the most?
  • What problem does the customer need to solve?

The most value any product or organization can provide to its customers is through the work it puts into the product itself.

Through continuous experimentation and optimization, Lean focuses on creating a high-quality workflow that requires less time and effort and a lower expense.

Lean methodology is highly adaptive to changes, requiring constant learning from each team member to adapt to changes and innovate the workflow.

An organization that follows the lean principles looks forward to providing the customer value through three major means:

  • Through product and process development
  • While fulfilling orders from the order through production to final delivery
  • Through the user’s use cycle right, starting right after publication and through maintenance and recycling

History of Lean Methodology

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Japanese manufacturers beat everyone in terms of efficiency, and every other company struggled to keep up with only two choices: Either trim down or shut down.

While more and more companies were adapting lean methodology into their organizational culture, the lean method continued to evolve and grow. In the modern manufacturing industry, most companies hire fewer people than the numbers you would see in the earlier times we mentioned.

Lean ideology began its journey from The Toyota Production System, considered one of the earliest iterations of the lean methodology. The methodology was built upon the deviation of three types that showcase inefficient allocation of resources.

1. Muda

The word refers to wastefulness or uselessness that takes away the value added to any product. Muda has two different types, respectively Type 1 and 2.

Type 1 refers to activities that don’t add value to the final product but are still necessary for the customer. Example: Safety testing.

Type 2 Muda refers to activities that are neither useful to the product developers nor the customers and should be eliminated from the work plan as soon as possible.

Type 2 Muda can also create seven different kinds of waste that follow the abbreviation TIMWOOD

1. Transport

2. Inventory

3. Motion

4. Waiting

5. Over-production

6. Over-processing

7. Defects

2. Mura

It means unevenness and irregularity. Mura is why one or more of the seven wastes created by type 2 Muda can exist. Mura can be avoided through methods like Kanban and other pull-based strategies that limit overproduction and excessive inventory.

3. Muri

Muri refers to a burden that is beyond an individual’s power. Muri can result from Mura and can also be caused by removing too much Muda from the workflow.

Muri can cause long-term repercussions to the workflow since constant Muri can cause employees to be absent more and more, machines to break down from overworking, etc.

These factors can affect the production line in the long run and drive up maintenance costs.

5 Principles of Lean Methodology

Western lean thinkers Jim Womack and Dan Jones helped bring Eastern lean ideologies to the pioneers of the Western manufacturing industry with their books The Machine that Changed The World and Lean Thinking. In their books, they mentioned these five principles.

1) Value Identification

The core focus of lean methodology is based on value. Any process that doesn’t add value to the project, the product, or the users always gets removed. So, any process that can shorten the project timeline through high efficiency and bring higher value to users should be prioritized.

First, decide on the first objective you need to achieve. Then, find the most valuable processes that can help you achieve the best results, and then move on to the next step, repeating the cycle.

2) Value Stream Mapping

After identifying the value, you should use one of many available lean management tools to create a value stream mapping, where all the value streams are visualized. It is great for conveying the information to your customers in a digestible format.

A value stream map can also help you keep track of each team and their assigned objectives, including measuring, evaluating, and improving their respective processes. This overview is great for removing any “Muda” from your workflow.

3) Efficient Workflow

After creating the stream map, it’s time to create a workflow. This is the longest process of the bunch since you have to take extra care to create an efficient workflow that remains smooth throughout all the stages.

Product or service development requires cross-functional teams, and different bottlenecks or interruptions are bound to appear regularly. This can be solved by breaking the workflow into smaller batches and visualizing it to make it easier for comprehension.

4) Pull System

The pull system only creates new work with high customer demand. Instead of assigning new tasks to team members or whole teams already busy with another task, objectives are stored in a queue for team members until they’ve finished their previous tasks.

5) Improvement

Continuous improvement is the second most prioritized concept in the lean method; the first is removing any process without value. Each improvement is made on the previous iterations by determining higher-value features and the procedures to achieve them while removing any clutter from the board before the next improvement phase begins.

Benefits of Lean Methodology

1) Increased Employee Focus & Engagement

When the entire workflow is laser-focused towards removing any unnecessary task from the timeline, this also means that no team member has to work more than the necessary ones to reach their objective.

When teammates are ensured that their workload will always be as minimal as possible, it boosts team morale, and they become more focused and engage each process with higher concentration.

2) Improved Productivity & Efficiency

Lean is highly efficient since the methodology revolves around doing less but with the best quality. This also results in high productivity since all the cross-functional teams can take on multiple objectives and get more work done within less time.

3) Faster Time To Market

The sooner a product’s development cycle ends, the faster the developers can push it to the market. With faster executions and efficient development cycles, lean cuts down excess development time and enables a faster time to market.

4) Improved Quality

Lean methodology emphasizes identifying and removing defects throughout every development step. When multiple teams concentrate on making the product as flawless as possible, the final product has better quality.

5) Continuous Improvement

Lean culture is built on continuous improvement of the deliverables and how to achieve them. The lean method allows organizations to constantly update and adapt to new changes to stay competitive in the toughest of market conditions.

Challenges When Working With The Lean Methodology

1) Employees May Resist Change

Not everyone has the same ideas or principles when working within an organization. Some employees might resist the idea of change when you’re trying to implement lean thinking throughout your organization.

Organizational-wide changes take longer to implement and can fail if most employees don’t comply.

2) Can Be Very Difficult To Implement

Implementing an entirely new team management methodology can be tough if everyone isn’t knowledgeable about how cross-functional teams operate under lean methodology. This results in additional expenses for training, infrastructure implementation, and culture change.

3) Higher Risk of Over-Focus on Data

The lean method is highly reliable on data and metrics to measure the success and performance of other team members. While it’s great for a short-term boost, it comes at the expense of long-term goals and strategic planning.

What Makes Lean Methodology Unique?

While maximizing efficiency is a universal rule, the idea that lean starts with the customer in mind rather than the assembly line sets it apart from others.

Customer satisfaction is the top consideration for every process that goes on in Lean. However, it doesn’t mean that the welfare and satisfaction of the team members are not valuable. The lean methodology also doesn’t believe production efficiency is more important than humans.

While unnecessary processes may be an excess that needs to be removed from the workflow, human burnouts, exhaustion, or disharmony are also inefficiencies that can result in Mura or Muri. Lean promotes a holistic picture of efficiency with people and outcomes at the center of it all.

Why You Should Choose Lean Methodology

Lean methodology is very easy to pick up and learn. Learning is important since all the principles can easily be misinterpreted without a thorough knowledge of the right tools and strategies for engagement.

Lean methods don’t just limit themselves to manufacturing and application development. Lean methods can be used in multiple scenarios to earn concrete skills while operating a large, highly efficient team.


How Does Lean Methodology Relate to Continuous Flow Production?

Lean often aims to achieve continuous flow production by minimizing batch sizes and optimizing processes.

Can Lean Principles Be Applied to Administrative and Office Processes?

Yes, Lean principles can be applied to improve administrative and office processes, reducing paperwork and delays.

What Is Lean Leadership, and How Does It Differ From Traditional Leadership?

Lean leadership involves leading by example, empowering employees, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, unlike traditional top-down leadership.

Is Lean Methodology Limited to Large Organizations, or Can It Be Applied to Small Teams?

Lean principles can be applied to organizations of all sizes, including small teams and startups.

How Does Lean Methodology Address the Concept of Standard Work?

Lean emphasizes defining and continuously improving standard work processes for consistency and quality.