How Waste Impacts Software Delivery

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I was shocked to read the news in Australia that constant delays at the Brisbane Airport cost airlines $75 million last year. It looks like the closure of one of the runways resulted in a bottleneck, which in turn led to scheduling issues at the busy airport.

Consider the fact that in lean terminology anything that is not adding value is considered waste, also known as Muda in Japanese. Now ask yourself the following questions: Is there a possibility that the $75 million cost to the airlines will result in higher airfare for passengers? Is it fair for passengers to pay more for a ticket when they are not getting any value? This hefty cost is not adding any value to the airlines or to the passengers.

As a software delivery coach, I see a lot of examples of waste in every step of software development. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of development waste, Craig Larman and Bas Vodde have written an article, titled “Lean Primer,” which is a good place to start. Additionally, the following YouTube video provides an overview of different kinds of wastes.

 

Many lean practitioners use a concept known as “value stream mapping” as the first step in identifying wastes. Over at the website System Agility, the authors detail some creative games for teams to play in order to both identify and deal with the software garbage.

However, there are some unavoidable wastes that we can never remove. To counter this, many companies are using the concept of “Lean Six Sigma” to deliver a high-quality product. This video provides a nice introduction to Lean Six Sigma.

 

Due to Lean Six Sigma’s potential to increase cost savings, there is currently a huge demand for lean consultants worldwide. Unfortunately, getting lean consultants and setting a goal for them may not be sufficient.

Several companies have burnt their fingers while trying the above approach. The following article shows several examples that highlight the attention needed during a company’s lean implementation; some professionals believe that Six Sigma killed innovation at the 3M Company.

To conclude, let me ask you this: What wastes have you seen in your company and what did you do to avoid wastes?

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Venkatesh Krishnamurthy

Venkatesh Krishnamurthy is an author, speaker and a coach. In his 15+ years of career in the software industry, he has played different roles as a developer, architect and an Agile coach.