Review: Leading Lean Software Development

I am reviewing books I have read in the past for an upcoming coaching gig. I realized I hadn't posted this review on my blog yet! This is from over a year ago, but its still relevant as I work with more and more customers who are now becoming interested in Lean software development. This is still one of the better "agile" books I have read in the past couple of years. Here is my review:

In Leading Lean Software Development, Mary and Tom Poppendieck present a handbook for how to run a software development group, top to bottom. I intended for this to be a simple review of concepts known to me for years, but the book offered much more. The book’s jacket describes it better than I can: They “show software leaders and team members exactly how to drive high-value change throughout a software organization—and make it stick.”  If you are completely new to agile and lean you the book might move a little fast for you.  If this is the case, I suggest you spend some quick time getting agile and lean 101 elsewhere first.
If you walk away with one concept after reading this book it should be to believe that success comes from people. The best companies focus on developing problem solving skills and local decision making. These companies favor adaptability over efficiency.  These companies make money to survive rather than simply surviving to make money.
The book starts out by defining the concept of frames, “the unspoken mental constructs that shape our perspectives and control our behavior in ways we rarely notice.”  A useful way to look at software development. I was happy to see their description of Agile as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This is why when you explain the set of Agile practices to those with extensive experience they usually nod their heads and say they are already doing them. I have been telling people that Agile is a collection of best practices that good software shops have been using for years. Now I have a reference to support this.
Software craftsmen should read chapter 2 about technical excellence. The chapter goes through each engineering practices, explains it such that a non-practitioner can understand and gives examples. After they are done they should make their manager’s read it, then their managers.
I wish this book had been written 5 years ago. It would have saved me considerable effort and time trying to define what a well run software organization looks like. Your mileage my vary, but I will say that I intend to keep this on my bookshelf right next to Managing The Professional Service Firm.

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