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When You’re Agile, You Get Lean


Lean manufacturing (or simply “Lean”) refers to the manufacturing philosophy laid out in the Toyota Production System. By applying this philosophy systematically to the manufacture of cars, Toyota became the global leader with a brand nearly synonymous with quality. Lean integrates each step of the supply chain into a holistic value stream. Waste reduction, a core tenet of the Lean philosophy, is the act of stripping away production waste that occurs in the value stream while preserving or augmenting the customer value of the final product.

Taiicho Ohno first described the seven Lean wastes in his book Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production. Although it differs from manufacturing in important ways, software development has analogous wastes. Once you start looking for them, they are surprisingly easy to find.

In this white paper, we will explore how the concept of Lean waste reduction has migrated from its origin in manufacturing to the software development industry through the use of Agile. First we will briefly describe the seven different kinds of manufacturing waste and discuss their analogs in software development. Then we will introduce guiding principles that the Lean and Agile philosophies share and discuss some of their implications. Finally we will discuss the Agile practices that embody these principles and demonstrate how they reduce software development waste.


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