Lean programming has been a popular topic in conferences over the last couple of years, largely thanks to the experience and work of Mary and Tom Poppendieck. Lean programming has its roots in lean manufacturing, a management system focused on reducing waste and empowering workers to improve processes themselves. Lean manufacturing is largely based on the work of W. Edwards Deming, the statistician who revolutionized the culture and operations of many businesses by focusing on driving quality through the whole of the organization. Deming’s work was adopted and improved the results of many companies, most notably Ford, Toyota and Bell Labs (AT&T).I just finished reading Dr. Deming – The American Who Taught the Japanese About Quality, which was written by Rafael Aguayo who studied under Deming in the 80’s. The book is not, as I initially thought, a biography of Deming (although there is a short appendix on Deming’s life). It is a well-written explanation of Deming’s 14-point management system, littered with numerous examples covering a multitude of organizations and industries.Interesting points made in the book include:- Without having profound knowledge, making corrections via a feedback system is just tampering and can lead to disastrous results.- Who is responsible for quality? 90% of the things we define as ‘Quality’ are out of the “workers’” hands: training budgets, deadlines, design acceptance, tools budget and selection. These are all management issues, yet the “worker” is the one often blamed for poor quality - does that sound familiar?- Cooperation with your competitor in R&D. In Japan, R&D costs are lower because groups from different organizations are brought together to work on the technology, sharing ideas. Once they have technology figured out, competition in the market place is fierce, concentrating on features, price and performance issues.This last point may seem strange to many western development managers, but we have a great example in the Eclipse IDE project. Eclipse was created by numerous groups of people for a common cause, and then companies such as IBM and Borland compete in the marketplace with Eclipse-based products such as RAD and JBuilder.Having spent some time working as a sales manager myself, one part of the book I found tough to buy in to was the suggestion of eliminating sales quotas/targets. Aguayo presents no alternative to replace these metrics, and there may be a good reason for that - there isn’t one.Although written almost 20 years ago, this book is suitable for anyone wishing to learn more about how to change management techniques to focus on quality throughout the business. Although it is not software industry-specific, it provides some useful background to understanding many of the concepts of lean programming. Some of Deming’s management points and Aguayo’s examples may seem contradictory or even irrelevant in many development managers’ eyes, especially ‘Stable Systems’ and ‘Removal of Inspections’. This is something I will blog about some more in the next few weeks.
How it works Static code analysis Technical paper
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Books, Process Improvement, Software Quality