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Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit

4.6 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321150783
ISBN-10: 0321150783
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit

Mary Poppendieck Tom Poppendieck

Forewords by Jim Highsmithand Ken Schwaber

  • Adapting agile practices to your development organization
  • Uncovering and eradicating waste throughout the software development lifecycle
  • Practical techniques for every development manager, project manager, and technical leader
Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit

Lean software development: applying agile principles to your organization

In Lean Software Development, Mary and Tom Poppendieck identify seven fundamental "lean" principles, adapt them for the world of software development, and show how they can serve as the foundation for agile development approaches that work. Along the way, they introduce 22 "thinking tools" that can help you customize the right agile practices for any environment.

Better, cheaper, faster software development. You can have all three—if you adopt the same lean principles that have already revolutionized manufacturing, logistics and product development.

  • Iterating towards excellence: software development as an exercise in discovery
  • Managing uncertainty: "decide as late as possible" by building change into the system.
  • Compressing the value stream: rapid development, feedback, and improvement
  • Empowering teams and individuals without compromising coordination
  • Software with integrity: promoting coherence, usability, fitness, maintainability, and adaptability
  • How to "see the whole"—even when your developers are scattered across multiple locations and contractors

Simply put, Lean Software Development helps you refocus development on value, flow, and people—so you can achieve breakthrough quality, savings, speed, and business alignment.

About the Author

MARY POPPENDIECK, Managing Director of the Agile Alliance (a leading non profit organization promoting agile software development), is a seasoned leader in both operations and new product development with more than 25 years of IT experience. She has led teams implementing solutions ranging from enterprise supply chain management to digital media, and built one of 3M's first Just-in-Time lean production systems. Mary is currently the President of Poppendieck LLC, a consulting firm specializing in bringing lean production techniques to software development.

TOM POPPENDIECK was creating systems to support concurrent development of commercial airliner navigation devices as early as 1985. Even then, the aerospace industry recognized that sequential development of product design, manufacturing process design and product support was costly and non-competitive. His subsequent experience in software product development, COTS implementation, and most recently as a coach, mentor, and enterprise architect support the same conclusion for software development. He currently assists organizations that need to improve their software development capabilities apply the lean principles and tools described in this book.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional (May 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321150783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321150783
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Cohn on June 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Books written during the first phase of agile software development have been about very specific practices we should employ. There are some excellent books on the Extreme Programming, Feature-Driven Development and Scrum agile processes. These books teach us "do a, b, and c if you want to do Extreme Programming" or "do x, y and z if you want to do Scrum."
In the last year we've seen books by Highsmith (Agile Software Development Ecosystems) and Cockburn (Agile Software Development) that represent the second wave of agile software development-that of learning to think agilely rather than following a prescribed set of agile rules. Mary and Tom Poppendieck's book is the latest and best book for teaching how to think agilely.
The book contains 22 "thinking tools." The thinking tools are drawn from the world of lean manufacturing where they have helped improve product delivery speed, quality and cost. Each tool is presented as a guideline. Each thinking tool is described with enough detail that you can put it into practice; but, more importantly, the reasons supporting each are made explicit. So, instead of simply reading that it is good to "deliver as fast as possible" we learn how rapid delivery is supported by pull systems (where work is pulled into the current step from the prior step), how queuing theory helps us identify bottlenecks, and how to calculate the cost of delay (to see which bottlenecks are worth removing).
This book is the perfect blend of highly actionable instructions and descriptions of why those actions work. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to improve his or her software development process. The authors' ideas are applicable both to projects using agile approaches today and to more traditional, plan-driven projects.
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Format: Paperback
Our reading group at work recently read "Lean Software Development." There are several things I really like about this book:

1. Its thinking is clearer than most. The Poppendiecks make sharp distinctions between principles, tools, and practices. (More on this will follow.)

2. It presents an Agile approach without demanding that one follow all tenets of Extreme Programming (such as pair programming).

3. It recognizes that in the past it has been a mistake to think of software development as being roughly analogous to manufacturing. Creating custom software is not very much like assembling cars within a factory.. Software development is much closer to product development, much more like the work that goes into designing the car in the first place. Principles (not necessarily techniques!) that work well in product design can have a much more straightforward application in software design.

4. They specifically address the needs of safety-critical software, talking about how to apply these principles in environments that are heavily regulated or where a software failure may endanger lives.

The book does suffer at times from and affliction common to this genre: over-enthusiasm. There can be a sense that all we need to do is follow what they say and all will be well. But, for the most part, the authors provide reasonable, realistic guidance for those looking to improve the way they go about creating software.

Now that we have the overview, let's look at the meat of the book: Agile principles. There are seven Agile principles which should govern a group's software development process:

1. Eliminate Waste

2. Amplify Learning

3. Decide as Late as Possible

Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I am a senior software systems engineer working for an aerospace company. I recently read the Poppendicks' book and have mixed feelings about it. Overall they present some great lean development principles and tools that appear to be useful in boosting productivity in my software engineering organization. On the other hand, their understanding of CMM/CMMI is so off-base that it is hard for me to take them seriously as authors.

They misrepresented CMM several times in the book, so they either do not understand what CMM is and how it works, or they are intentionally misrepresenting it to "scare" people into using their lean software tools. The reality is that agile software development principles and tools fit perfectly into the CMM/CMMI models and the Poppendicks would have a much stronger book if they realized that. Rather than bashing CMM to make their tools seem more useful, they might do better if they realized that CMM/CMMI and lean software development can work perfectly together.

My advice to people interested in buying the book is to only read the book if you can take what the Poppendicks say with a grain of salt. Read about the lean principles/tools and think of how you could apply them in your software development environment. In the spirit of implementing the primary principle of lean development (i.e. eliminate waste), I would ignore the anecdotes they include in the book. They appear to be intentionally sensational while offering little value.
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This is an excellent discussion of how the principles of Lean Manufacturing apply to Software Development. The authors explain why the usual metaphor of software as manufacturing is not quite right, and why the metaphor of Lean Manufacturing is something we can learn from. The book is clearly written and the authors provide examples and anecdotes to help you to understand their points. This was a fairly quick read, and I am likely to refer to it often.
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