January 3, 2008

The (Toyota) way to go

Toyota has become the biggest car producer in 2007 overtaking General Motors who had been holding this position for 80 years. This is quite a big news! Toyota has been paving the way to efficient production management for decades, inventing lean and other manufacturing management concepts. Lean can be applied everywere and be transposed to many other businesses. Lots of companies look in this field to improve their process throughput while keeping stable resources.

In software development field, the definitive reference for lean thinking is the work of the Poppendiecks, which is gathered on their website. Many agile development models and practices are either inspired by lean thinking or verify lean principles:
  • TDD implements a perfect "pull" organisation of the code and unit tests tasks
  • eXtreme Programming has many practices verifying lean principles (Jacques Couvreur wrote a good article on how XP relates to the Toyota way),
  • Continuous Integration and software factories are a way to make jidoka happen in the software development process
  • Test-Driven Requirements (TDR) is an extension of TDD, applying lean principles to the other steps of the software development process (I made a presentation, in French, on this topic during the Valtech Days 2007)
  • and so on...

Although it seems Agile Values were not directly inspired by Lean Thinking by the time of the Agile Manifesto, there are so many connections today in the software development field that it is difficult to differentiate either one. However, I think that Lean covers a broader area of interest. Software development organisations that seek to be "agile" today will probably seek to be "lean" in the coming years.