This post is part 4 of a 4 part-series. You can start over or read the introduction in this post.

Here are all the posts in this series.

  1. Software Delivery Performance
  2. Organizational Culture
  3. Continuous Delivery
  4. Lean Management (this post)

Part 4 - Lean Management

In all the previous posts, the focus is mostly on the technical side and that is only one side of a coin. Another aspect that can make a huge impact is the management side. This post will focus on Lean Management which is a popular management approach in modern organizations.

Lean Management is rooted in the Toyota production system which focuses on producing a cheaper faster and high quality cars.

Figure 1 - Lean Management and its impacts

Lean Management practices in software

The success of the Lean Management concept in the production system has been proved. It, then, got adopted to the software development world. To be able to measure Lean Management in an organization, in this book, it is modeled into these components:

Limit WIP. The team puts a limit on the number of Work In Progress. This makes it clear that our focus is on the finished work which creates value to the customers, not a pile of incomplete works.

Visual Management. The team or anyone interested can see the current state of the team’s work visually. For example, the physical board which is good for a collocated team, online work management such as Jira is for a remote team.

Feedback from Production. The current state of the production system is feeding back to the team that owns it, be it, error rate, performance metrics, or usage. This is to ensure that the team will know what needs to be improved and prioritized next.

Lightweight Change Approvals. The need for approval before releasing a product should be just enough. This means it should be reviewed by the team which knows best about the change instead of an external entity that might not have enough knowledge about the reviewing change. The improper approval process can also significantly block the flow of changes to the customer. Research from the book found that teams that required external approval have the lowest performance.

Lean Product Development

Zooming out of the software development process, another area that can also apply Lean Management is Product Management. Lean Product Development focuses more on product and customer. The model used to measure Lean Product Development are:

Work in Small Batches. Ability to release a small product feature incrementally and frequently. The feature should be just enough to learn from customers and then iterate. The term commonly used is Minimum Viable Product or MVP.

Make Flow of Work Visible. The team can see the end-to-end flow of the product from business to customer.

Gather & Implement Customer Feedback. The team can get feedback from the real user or customer regularly and can incorporate the feedback into the product.

Team Experimentation. The team can decide on their own about what they want to learn more about the users and create experiments without the need for approvals.

Lean Management impacts

From their research, Lean Management can have multiple impacts, generative or innovative culture, software delivery performance, and people’s burnout. In addition, Lean Product Management can predict organizational performance. They also found that not only it impacts Software Delivery Performance but the opposite is also true. This creates a loop of improvement which is very nice.

Lean Management impacts to people

Another important aspect in this research is human. Common problems especially in the technology organization are burnout, deployment difficulty, low accountability, and low job satisfaction.

They learned that Lean Management practice helps reducing burnout, getting rid of deployment difficulty, making them own the product, and satisfy in the job.

Moreover, when the human condition improved, the organizational performance is also improved.


To improve technology organizational performance, considering only the technology side such as software delivery is not enough. Management practice can also play an important role in performance improvement. Furthermore, the human who is the one who produced the work should be taken into account. These factors are reinforcing each other and create a cycle of improvement. If you, as a leader, can master these things, you are set to be accelerated to the front row and make everyone happy along the way.