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InfoQ Interview: Mary and Tom Poppendieck on using Lean for Competitive Advantage

| by Deborah Hartmann Preuss Follow 0 Followers on Feb 21, 2007. Estimated reading time: 1 minute |
Mary and Tom Poppendieck are in demand around the world as speakers, coaches and consultants. In this InfoQ interview, they share lessons learned in their years of practical experience, and reveal the principles underlying Lean success in software. They address the history of Lean thinking, the value of fast delivery and deferred committment, talk about how they use of Value Stream Mapping to identify and reduce waste, and the importance of identifying and dealing well with cross-organizational and inter-organizational boundarie.

Authors of the book, Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash, the Poppendiecks are well qualified to teach software professionals about streamlining processes and making them much more effective. Mary has been in the Information Technology industry for thirty years, in both operations and new product development, managing solutions for companies in several disciplines including supply chain management, manufacturing systems, and digital media. Mary first encountered the Toyota Production System in her role as Information Systems Manager in a video tape manufacturing plant, a process which later became known as Lean Production. She implemented one of the first Just-in-Time systems (another term for Lean) in 3M, resulting in dramatic improvements in the plant's performance. Tom is an enterprise analyst and architect, and an agile process mentor. He led the development of a world-class product data management practice for a major commercial avionics manufacturer that reduced design to production transition efforts from 6 months to 6 weeks.

Mary and Tom focus on identifying real business value and enabling product teams to realize that value.  Some of the questions they address in this exclusive interview include:
  • What are the main principles behind Lean?
  • What does "waste" in software development look like?
  • Lean sounds a lot like Scrum. What's the difference? And what about RUP?
  • What is "delayed commitments", one of the principles you mentioned?
  • You include a principle to "deliver fast". Shouldn't we be "slow and more careful"?
  • Is it Lean realistic in large organizations with a lot of boundaries between departments?
  • How do you do Lean under contract?

Related news: New Book on Lean Software Offers Practical Advice

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Follow-up thoughts by Maris Fogels

That was a great interview! I love the 'boat on a river' analogy, and have used it since to great effect.

The interview prompted an interesting conversation with one of my co-workers about agile software contracts and how they relate to civil engineering contracts (hint: you are building a subway, not a skyscraper!). I have written about it here:

Lean Software and Subyway Lines

Poppendieck's interview is excellent by Sameh Zeid

Enjoyed a lot this interview, questions were carefully chosen and I felt like Mary and Tom made a good balance. I learned a lot from this interview. It is about time to have some quality basis (Mary call it principles) behind what we do in software development.

As key success factor, I think it will be how to make the buy-in when boundaries are crossed. Lean is a typical change program with all resistance that would be faced. I believe that Lean requires strong management commitment, otherwise success will be at lower profile areas.

Sameh Zeid

Lean development and software quality by Daan van Etten

I like many of the ideas presented in the video, and how Mary and Tom look into software development.
What struck me was that software quality and the speed of development are related in many ways. To be fast, you need to have very good software. If your software is not good, you lose your speed because you are constantly hindered by complicated, bug-laden software.
See also my post about the subject: Lean development and software quality.

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