Book review: Lean Software Strategies

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Note: I read this book a couple of years ago, and I truly meant to review it earlier, but it’s been out on loan to a worthy recipient.

If there are now a couple of camps in the world of lean software development, they might be the “Lean/Agile” interpretation and the “Lean Software Engineering” interpretation. Middleton and Sutton made the first definitive statement of the latter camp, and well, you can guess where my sympathies lie.

I’ll start by saying that reading Lean Software Strategies and writing this review have been frustrating for me, because this is a book that I dreamed of writing. It’s kind of uncanny, really. QFD, TRIZ, DSMs, Design by Contract, static analysis, lean vs. craft, and so on. These are most of my big themes, and they’re all in there.

This outstanding book won a 2007 Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence and most deservedly so. It is the most direct and thorough application of Lean principles to the software development process that I have seen yet.

Cons? There is some crap on the CMM and programming languages that I didn’t find helpful, and I wish they had spent less ink on XP. More about reliability and security engineering would have been welcome (why does security always get short shrift in methodology books?). What the book lacks most is a usable walkthrough of how to set up a lean engineering process. It’s full of descriptions of what would be in such a system, but short on telling you how to get started.

If you are interested in this subject and all you have read is the Poppendiecks, please, please, please read this book. If you are interested in this subject and you have a background in software engineering, this is the book to start with. If you don’t know a lot about either software engineering or Lean, you should probably start off with Womack/Jones and the Poppendiecks, and then….please read this book!