Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
For those investigating the next step after adopting lean or agile delivery models
on 26 November 2013
The Lean Mindset is the latest book by two of my favourite authors, Mary and Tom Poppendieck. As expected from a continuation of their Lean series, the book tackles a topic much wider than just software delivery, but with great case studies that help put those things into a software delivery perspective.
One of the central concepts of the book is the move from process efficiency to product management and product delivery, which is probably the most important topic for organisations that have successfully adopted Scrum, Kanban or any of the related processes. Pushing software out of the door in a reliable and predictable manner is pretty much a solved problem now, and the next big improvement for many teams will have to come from somewhere else - and in my mind this is clearly by using that process effectiveness to remove bottlenecks in product management. Quoting one of the contributors to the book, "Our agile projects were consistently producing affordable, high-quality software with almost every customer priority included. [...] Stakeholders might have been satisfied with project performance, but rarely was the audience delighted, wowed, or blown away by novel innovation or creative design.". If you recognised your team or organisation in the previous sentence, then this is absolutely the book you have to read next.
The FBI case management story was particularly interesting as it shows one of the pitfalls of iterative delivery - that the pressure to show constant progress causes people to constantly select easy tasks until wicked problems requiring serious engineering surface. This is often caused by a disconnect between business objectives and technical delivery, and the authors list several tools and models that can help avoid that "Air Sandwich".
As the title suggests, this book is primarily about thinking models - or mindsets. It's no surprise then that it's packed full of references to psychology studies, especially around motivation, teamwork, expert decision making and intuition. Bob Marshall, in his review on Amazon, blasts the book for just recycling old ideas, but I see great value in this work as an overview that shows how all those ideas relate to eachother and together create a bigger picture. Readers new to those topics will find a worthy introduction to the works of Gary Klein, Dan Ariely, Chip and Dan Heath, Daniel Kahneman and get a good idea how that relates to the work of software thought leaders. Even though I was aware of all those names before, this book was useful to me as a portal full of references to lesser known works by other researchers, especially in the areas of organisation management and adaptive planning. Case studies explaining how those ideas were implemented on large scale firmware delivery in Intel, online service delivery at Spotify and Amazon and government projects at the FBI put things nicely into software delivery perspective, and will come in very handy when people in larger organisations need convincing that this isn't just for startups with no legacy software.
I'd recommend this book to all software delivery managers looking investigating the next step after adopting lean or agile delivery models. The book won't give you a detailed explanation of any of the tools you need, but it will give you a good starting point for further research into individual topics.