David Carlton emailed me to ask:
“I’d been thinking that I should read more about lean manufacturing; what are your favorite books on the topic? And am I correct in assuming that the Poppendieck book is where to start for lean software development?”
Lean manufacturing is indeed a fascinating topic, particularly in the week that Ford in the US seems to have completely failed to understand it…
I guess I began by going to the horse’s mouth to read Taichi Ohno’s Toyota Production System. After that there’s a wealth of material out there. Many of the most approachable are those written by Westerners for Westerners: such as The Machine that Changed the World or Lean Thinking by Womack & Jones, or Liker’s The Toyota Way. Others are more specialised, such as Imai’s Gemba Kaizen.
Lean manufacturing concepts – such as pull, jidoka, gemba etc – can be applied to software development with positive effect (see Lean Software Development by the Poppendiecks). However, beware of drawing parallels between software development and manufacturing. In a software production business, the “manufacturing” step is largely about packaging and burning CDs etc, whereas software development itself is what folks in hard engineering call “Product Development” or “Engineering”. Toyota’s approach to product development is often termed Knowledge Management or the Learning Organisation, and their performance there is perhaps even more startling than it is in manufacturing. Yet there’s little approachable material available. I began with Kennedy’s Product Development for the Lean Enterprise.
There is a growing body of information available about knowledge management and learning organisations – I’m currently working my way through Takeuchi & Nonaka’s Hitotsubashi on Knowledge Management. However, with the exception of influences in the Poppendiecks’ book I know of very little material mapping these concepts directly onto software development.
(Inevitably my reading has been patchy and is woefully incomplete. So please let me know if you’ve read books I’ve missed here – particularly any that deal more explicitly with mapping software development to knowledge management and learning organisations.)