Lean Practices & Continuous Improvement in Agile

The agile frameworks are software development approaches or methodologies based on the values and principles defined in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The agile values and principles help agile teams eliminate the bottlenecks and shortcomings of the traditional approaches and thrive in highly competitive and uncertain environments by helping them quickly adapt to changes and keep innovating to stay ahead of competitions. One of the fundamental concepts behind the agile process is to build a product that meets customer’s demands quickly and efficiently. The agile lean emphasizes this even more. The core idea of lean practices is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste (Greycampus, n.d.). What this means is to reduce the wastage of cost, schedule, and resources while maximizing their usage to increase return on the investment. The ultimate and ideal lean process will create zero waste. The lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers (Greycampus, n.d.). The importance of minimizing waste but maximizing customer values is very important in today’s competitive market, where software companies constantly need to improve their practices by employing appropriate methodologies, tools, technologies, better engineering, etc to stay on top of the competition. One of such successful and productive approaches is a combination of the Agile and Lean methods. Lean comprises five distinct steps including Value, Value Stream, Flow, Pull, and Perfection (Poppendieck & Cusumano, 2012). Similarly, several established Lean practices are adopted by the company to achieve Lean Principle. Addressing Bottlenecks, Deferring Decision Making, Considering Incentives, Measuring and Managing WIP and Kaizen are some of those Lean Practices commonly practiced by organizations to implement the Lean Principle in a project.

Addressing Bottlenecks: The team can define the criteria to identify bottlenecks. Much of these bottlenecks in software projects comes usually from bugs, human error, inefficient technology, and lack of proper infrastructures. For all these kinds of bottlenecks, the team should provide a rough way to address which can be fine-tuned when the details on bottlenecks appear clearer and the entire team is responsible to address these challenges.

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Defer Decision Making: In this practice, the team pushes the decision-making action as far as possible. The decision-making is usually postponed to the last moment. This is something that goes against agile practice where decision-making is encouraged to be on time.

Considering Incentives: While practicing to consider incentives, the motive is to encourage the team to be more productive. The effort invested by the team is acknowledged by the management and the team becomes motivated. Incentives can be monetary or non-monetary. Prizes, gifts, promotions, recognizations, job benefits all can be considered incentives.

Measuring and managing WIP: The work in progress should be measured and managed. The transparency in the amount of work done and the amount of work left can provide great insight on how to proceed to the next delivery or the planning. All projects need oversight to reduce waste and to reduce risks.

Kaizen: Kaizen focuses on the continual improvement of the process in a company (Shahzeydi & Gandomani, 2016). The entire team should be focused and work on improving the process and manufacturing of the product throughout the life cycle of the project.

Continuous Improvement is a strategy where everyone in a team collaborates to improve the quality of the product and efficiency of the building process throughout the projects which are done in an incremental fashion, small improvement at a time but continuously. The lean practice “Kaizen” discussed above is a continuous improvement process as well. PDCA ( Plan, Do, Check and Act) is considered to be a scientific approach to continuous improvement.

References:

Greycampus. Agile Framework Lean. (n.d.). https://www.greycampus.com/opencampus/agile-certified-practitioner/agile-framework-lean.

Poppendieck, M., Cusumano, M. A. (2012). Lean software development: A tutorial. IEEE Software, 29(5), 26–32. https://doi.org/10.1109/ms.2012.107

Shahzeydi, M., & Gandomani, T. J. (2016). Adding lean principles to agile software development: A case study report. International Journal of Software Engineering and Technology.

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