James Sutton

Lean Day May 6th Presentation:

Let Lean be Lean, Agile be Agile, and Ever the Twain shall Meet


Software is the last large industry to explore Lean Production. To date, most of our Lean experiments have been based on some form of Agile Development. Agile is a great improvement over traditional approaches for many domains. Applying Lean ideas to Agile practices has proven helpful to both technique and theory.

Nevertheless, applying Lean to Agile carries us only so far. Cognitive psychology says our brains filter out anything that falls outside our current mental models of reality. In other words, we miss seeing things rushing by our car window, if we put on colored glasses before taking the first look outside. Unsurprisingly, Lean seen through Agile-shaded lenses looks remarkably like…Agile. Might we see some new things if we grasped our mental models by their rims, lifted them off our faces, and took a fresh look? Large productivity and quality gains on Lean projects where Agile has been ruled out by external factors (e.g., large safety-critical/military) confirm the answer is “yes.”

In this talk we will first look at what the five Lean principles mean in Software. Then we will briefly discuss how combining Lean and Agile can yield a kind of “hybrid vigor” stronger than either alone.

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James Sutton

James Sutton applies systems-engineering and Lean methods with a business sensibility to software systems development. This has consistently improved productivity and quality by several hundred percent on projects ranging from a few million U.S. dollars to over a billion. In 2007 his book with Peter Middleton, “Lean Software Strategies,” explained this approach and won the Shingo Prize, which Business Week Magazine calls “the Nobel Prize of Manufacturing.” James is a Principal Systems Engineer at Lockheed-Martin Aeronautics Company, and holds the Certified Professional Systems Engineer (CSEP) certification with the INCOSE (International Council On Systems Engineering) organization, along with certifications in Lean, QFD, TRIZ, and negotiation. He is also a keynote speaker (AdaUK London and Lean-Agile Paris in early 2009), and has spoken and published for numerous other conferences.