Lean Software Development : An Agile Toolkit, Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck.   An excellent resource on how the lean principles from product manufacturing can be applied unto software development.  A good overview of content can be found in their 2002 paper here (pdf) and the Wikipedia article on Lean.


Each chapter in the book describes several “thinking tools” for the 7 Lean Principles.

  1. Eliminate waste describes how to identity and remove waste in order to maximize the flow of the value stream.
    • Seeing Waste
    • Value Stream Mapping
  2. Amplify learning emphasizes how short feedback cycles can improve the resulting product and development process.
    • Feedback
    • Iterations
    • Synchronization
    • Set-based development
  3. Decide as late as possible in order to deal with uncertainty, and make better decisions.
    • Options thinking
    • The last responsible moment
    • Decision making
  4. Deliver as fast as possible in order to enable late decision making, and produce value as quickly as we can.
    • Pull systems
    • Queuing theory
    • Cost of delay
  5. Empower the team in order to make use of the expertise that lies with the people that actually do the work.
    • Self-determination
    • Motivation
    • Leadership
    • Expertise
  6. Build integrity in to accommodate change and increase the period of usefulness of a product.
    • Perceived integrity
    • Conceptual integrity
    • Refactoring
    • Testing
  7. See the whole warns against sub-optimization, and provides tools for keeping the bigger picture in mind.
    • Measurements
    • Contracts

Books on process usually take me longer to get through than those dealing strictly with technical topics – with the density of information in some of the chapters, this one was no exception.  It’s a real eye-opener though and comes highly recommended for those wishing to improve their software development process, even for those in non-agile environments.

What to read if you are in a hurry

The part on Queuing Theory was particularly informative and captures the substance of the book perfectly.  More on this later.