Customer Value & Lean

To discuss Lean and Lean Software Development is a long task. Permit me to start slowly, with background, and to start with some digressions. There has been a lot of talk lately of the auto business and what will happen to Chrysler. Is there something there we can learn?

Lean, as you know, is most closely associated with Toyota and two men: Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo. They of course were strongly influenced by Deming and Henry Ford. When asked a question, Mr. Ohno famously said, “Oh, I got it all from reading ‘Today and Tomorrow’ by Henry Ford.” The story of these people and their courage and inter-relationships is interesting. I doubt that you can read too much by Ford or Deming or by Ohno or Shingo.

What has all of this to do with Agile & Business?

In my mind, the first principle of Lean is this: Value is defined in the eyes of the end customer. See Lean Principles at the LEI.

This from “Lean Thinking” by Womack and Jones:

“The critical starting point for Lean thinking is value. Value can only be defined by the ultimate customer, and it’s only meaningful when expressed in terms of a specific product (a good or a service, and often both at once) which meets the customer’s needs at a specific price at a specific time.”

In “Lean Solutions,” Womack and Jones speak for all of us (as customers) when they say we want our problems solved. We don’t want a product, we want our problem solved:

“Solve my problem completely.”
“Don’t waste my time.”
“Provide exactly what I want.”
“Deliver value exactly where I want it.”
“Supply value exactly when I want it.”
“Reduce the number of decisions I must make to solve my problems.”

And, if you are younger, you might add: “And give me something that is waayy cool to be involved with.”

When we are doing Agile, we are already trying to get close to the customers to get frequent feedback from the customers — even to collaborate with them. In Scrum, we have the Product Owner (and they with the whole team must be asking how well they are representing all the end customers).

The customers are changing fast. Are you working at it enough in your project today?


In the Agile Community, Mary and Tom Poppendieck are the ones most closely associated with Lean Software Development. See their site here. I will be talking more about these Lean ideas in future posts.


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