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Leading Lean & Agile – it’s all about people

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Mary & Tom Poppendieck  have written a new book Leading Lean Software Development: Results Are Not the Point

The editor’s description states that the book is:
Written for managers who want to move beyond initial successes with agile practices, this engaging and concise book shows how successful organizations frame each of these key areas.  Starting with a chapter on “systems thinking” that investigates how work actually works, and a chapter on “technical excellence” that covers the basics of excellent software development, they go on to cover the role of “reliable delivery” and “relentless improvement,” demonstrating how improvement works and highlighting the role of the manager-as-mentor of improvement. The book concludes with an examination of how leaders create companies of “great people” and a discussion of how “aligned leaders” turn theory into practice has an extract of a chapter available at
The Poppendiecks point out that “Leaders make the people around them better. Great leaders make the people around them great. And great companies have great leaders at every level
The book chapter discusses the cultural changes that were needed when IBM adopted Lean/Agile methods. The Agile@IBM transformation is described as being the most successful development initiative rollout … ever seen at IBM”.  It talks about the top-down & bottom-up approach taken by the IBM change team and how the change was supported by training and coaching. 
Three key aspects of the IBM approach are collaborative leadership, experimentation and stakeholder involvement. The authors give examples of how this has been applied at IBM with stories and lessons that provide advice which could be applied in other organisations making an Agile transformation.
The lessons they list are:
Lesson one: Ensure your team is trained, and ensure the leaders of the organization understand how to look at agile projects differently
Lesson two: Allow enough time in the overall project plan to accommodate that critical stakeholder feedback, and ensure the leadership team understands the necessity and value of building this flexibility into the plans from the beginning.
Lessons three and four: Be sure your team understands the meaning of ‘done’, and how to appropriately address technical debt. We also discovered first-hand that continuous integration is soooo important.
As the Poppendiecks say
Competitive advantage does not come from good theories; it comes from good theories that are well-implemented. Implementation is hard. The Agile@IBM case study provides a lot of lessons in moving from theory to practice.

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