Trimming your 無駄

At the end of last Friday’s email, I asked this question in response to a reader query about how testing can fit with development work:

Are you regularly looking for waste and working together to eliminate it?

It was a bit naughty of me to ask this question right at the end of a long email, because it’s a biggy. So we’re going to take a look at that this week.

The concept of ‘waste’* here comes from lean software principles, and there are entire bookshelves devoted to this subject.

But don’t worry, in the next few days I’m going to suggest a simple activity you can work on with your team to identify waste and prioritise efforts for reducing it.

In Mary and Tom Poppendieck’s book Lean Software Development: An Agile Tookit, the authors describe waste in software development as anything that is not directly adding value to the customer.

They also give some examples of types of waste:

  • Partially done work
  • Extra processes
  • Extra features
  • Task switching
  • Waiting
  • Motion
  • Defects
  • Management activities

On reading this list, you might already be nodding your head strongly. It’s likely that there are some obvious parts of your development process that could be improved.

BUT, instead of piling into the team with your list of things that they suck at, you can use this as an opportunity to let the team discover it for themselves.

One way to do this with some structure is to create simple value stream map. We’ll see what’s involved tomorrow.

In the mean time, tell me this:

Looking at the list above, what do you think is the biggest source of waste in your team’s development process? Why?

All the best,

– Jim

*The Japanese term ‘muda’ (無駄) apparently translates as ‘futility; uselessness; wastefulness’ according to Wikipedia

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