The Lean IT Cosmos
Lean IT refers to all applications of lean thinking, principles, methods, and tools in the world of information management and technology. The clearer your understanding of these components, the more effective you will be at applying the tools and methods needed to achieve your specific objectives.
Agile Software Development & Scrum
The core characteristics of agile are short, rapid cycles of work (sprints), business involvement throughout the development process (product owner), team collaboration and self-direction (daily Scrum), visual management (work-in-progress boards and burn-down charts), and reflection (retrospectives, feedback loops, ongoing process improvement), as well as an emphasis on software engineering excellence.
Kanban, as the term is used in IT, is a visual work management system used to (a) envision the flow of work, (b) limit work-in-process, (c) drive productivity through an awareness of what people are working on and greater levels of collaboration, and (d) continuously improve the process by leveraging feedback loops.
Continuous Delivery (aka Continuous Deployment) is all about releasing functional software more frequently and in small amounts. This applies to companies that actually sell software applications as well as companies who rely on software to deliver products and services. Continuous delivery makes use of automation, recurrent releases of code, testing at every stage of the process, and a pull-based workflow that permits only functionally ready-for-production code to move to the next stage in the release cycle.
Lean Startup is a beautiful example of the Plan–Do–Check–Adjust learning cycle that lies at the root of lean thinking. The approach (described as Build–Measure–Learn in the startup lexicon) is based on building a set of hypotheses and identifying ways to test them as quickly and inexpensively as possible. This approach fast-tracks learning in order to understand what prospective users actually want and are willing to buy, allowing assumptions to be tested as rapidly and cheaply as possible by releasing minimum viable products to prove or disprove assumptions concerning what customers need, want, and are willing to pay for.
DevOps is more of a movement than a methodology. The objective is to create a seamless flow of value from IT by coordinating and integrating the activities of Development (Dev), Operations (Ops), and beyond. The concept of a “value stream” has been applied in lean to both in Service and Manufacturing environments for decades. DevOps leverages many of the lean principles and tools to create the ultimate IT value stream.
Lean/Agile Project Management
Agile project management is the application of core lean practices to project management including (a) a customer value focus, (b) application of systemic thinking, (c) emphasis on the business problem over technology, (d) collaboration and shared learning, (e) frequent releases of usable functionality (e.g., code) the customer is ready to deploy, and (f) deliberate and active development of engagement, teamwork, and accountability. A key element of agile project management is the emphasis of value creation over task execution. Lean project management extends project management practices far beyond methods and tools and moves toward the realm of lean coaching.