Building on their breakthrough bestsellers Lean Software Development and Implementing Lean Software Development, Mary and Tom Poppendieck’s latest book shows software leaders and team members exactly how to drive high-value change throughout a software organization—and make it stick. They go far beyond generic implementation guidelines, demonstrating exactly how to make lean work in real projects, environments, and companies.
The Poppendiecks organize this book around the crucial concept of frames, the unspoken mental constructs that shape our perspectives and control our behavior in ways we rarely notice. For software leaders and team members, some frames lead to long-term failure, while others offer a strong foundation for success. Drawing on decades of experience, the authors present twenty-four frames that offer a coherent, complete framework for leading lean software development. You’ll discover powerful new ways to act as competency leader, product champion, improvement mentor, front-line leader, and even visionary.
Review By: Jan A. Scott 07/20/2010If you've worked as a manager in a corporate environment and ever felt puzzled or frustrated with the way projects are managed, then this is the book for you. Mary and Tom Poppendieck have written a book that is interesting and relevant to software development and all types of project work.
The book is divided into six chapters each containing several "frames" that outline the basic material to be covered. The book is peppered with stories from what the authors call "high velocity" companies, companies that respond to changes and learn faster than their competitors. Toyota, Southwest Airlines, and Amazon.com are some examples of high velocity companies. Stories from the authors' own experiences are also included. Instead of the usual review questions at the end of each chapter, there are sections called "Your Shot" that challenge the reader to put into practice or at least think about the material presented in the chapter. Many of these exercises are thought provoking. For example, one exercise challenges you to look five years into the future to a time when your organization is quite successful. What does this success look like? How big is your code and customer base? How many employees do you have? And so on.
Some of the material is amazingly insightful about how corporations do business. For example, in the U.S. we make decisions very quickly but spend a long time on execution because rethinking and reevaluation occur and are considered essential. In Japan, it is the opposite; decisions happen very slowly but once the decision is made, implementation happens quickly. Overall, according to the authors, Japan delivers results more quickly. Another example is that bad news is delivered first in Japan, which means that you look at everything you are doing from the point of view of what is wrong to facilitate improvement. In my experience with U.S. corporations, we don't like to talk about problems or "challenges." We usually relegate this discussion to a single, end-of-project postmortem. We prefer to focus on good points to gain approval from our peers and managers. Truly, we are missing a great opportunity for improvement by focusing heavily on the good instead of the bad.
Other common practices in corporations are challenged by the authors. Typically detailed budgets and project plans are done at the beginning of a project. However, does a conformance to a plan insure predictability and success, or is it better to maintain options as long as possible until more information is known? Is it necessary to set targets to insure performance, or is it better to improve the capability of the system and the people?
The questions posed in this book are fascinating. Sometimes the answers to many of these questions are deeply ingrained in a company culture and therefore not easy to change. However, the book is valuable in that it sheds light on them enabling managers to challenge assumptions and perhaps make changes in our their own little corners.