Lean IT – Read All About It!

The No Crisis Company Blog is currently running a Lean Literature Quiz, and even though the quiz at the time of writing is only a few days old, it already shows a clear bias towards knowing a lot about “old-school lean” but little about Lean IT.

So I would like to give some hints on getting started. These are just my suggestions, and if you have a better idea or something to add – please tell about it!

How Lean IT started

When Steve Bell’s and Mike Orzen’s price winning book “Lean IT” arrived on the scene a couple of years ago it was pushing a button, which had somehow been left unnoticed for a long time. The button for starting up Lean activities in the IT departments.

Of course, it had happened before – some IT people had been involved with Lean activities, and some had tried to move their IT department into being lean. But with the new book there was suddenly a reference available on what Lean IT was all about and what to consider when starting a journey in that direction.

How you can start

Mike Orzen has put some slides on SlideShare that pin out a few important things from the book: A3 thinking, Value Streams, PDCA, and the combination of vertical technologies with horizontal information flows – perfect for getting introduced to the idea of Lean IT. The best next step would then probably be to read the book, which will set the scene and provide a good background.

Even though there are many books about Lean on the market, Lean IT has still not attracted writers and publishers in large amounts. But a few more exist and in particular Steve Bell’s “Run Grow Transform” seems to be the obvious follow-up. It has a more practical approach and additionally a number of chapters written by specialists in each of a number of fields.

There is also the European Lean IT Summit 2013, which takes place in Paris in the beginning of October. If you have a chance to participate, it could turn out to be a very good introduction to Lean IT – maybe along with the books mentioned. The authors of these books will be there as well (and so will I, so maybe we’ll meet?). On YouTube you can find videos from the previous years.

And then you specialize

This is probably what distinguishes Lean IT from Lean Manufacturing or Lean Service – or any other utilization of lean thinking: it embraces a large set of areas, just like plain old IT. IT is such a broad concept that hardly anyone can be said to be an expert in all of it. Therefore, people are specializing in one or more areas of IT, and so they are with regards to Lean IT.

The books mentioned above both give some information on a number of special areas, but most likely you will get excited about it all and want more.

You should start by determining which areas your IT activities cover and then choose books which are rich on ideas and instructions for your areas:

Do you work with software development (not necessarily in the IT department), which should be integrated into the Lean IT approach? Then you can choose from many good books on the subject, for instance the series on “Lean Software Development” by Mary and Tom Poppendieck, and/or “Diciplined Agile Delivery” by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines. The Poppendiecks have an additional (very long) list of recommended reading on their website – if you want more!

Are you more focused on project management or business analysis? Then, depending on the nature of your projects, you could look at Mary and Tom Poppendieck’s “Leading Lean Software Development” or Jeffrey K. Liker’s and David Meier’s “The Toyota Way Fieldbook“. The latter is suitable also for those mostly engaged with process improvement. And all of you could make good use of “Value Stream Management for the Lean Office” by Don Tapping and Tom Shuker, plus “The Complete Lean Enterprise” by Beau Keyte and Drew Locher.

For managers, leaders, HR people and trainers/teachers/instructors, as well as those involved with the overall change processorganizational shaping, and strategizing, I suggest “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter M. Senge, “Learning Organizations” by Sarita Chawla and John Renesch” (editors), and “Toyota Talent” by Jeffrey K. Liker and David P. Meier.

Those working with IT Service Management do not have any lean-oriented books specifically about their field to choose from, as far as I know, but ITIL is by itself kind of lean, so books about this may help. And “Making IT Lean” by Howard Williams and Rebecca Duray has a long chapter on Lean IT Service Management, along with chapters on many other Lean IT topics, and it would in general be a good supplement to the books by Bell and Orzen.

These were my general recommendations, for inspiration and learning. Happy reading and summiting!

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4 Responses to Lean IT – Read All About It!

  1. Pingback: Lean Literature Quiz | The No Crisis Blog

  2. Here is a playlist for the Lean IT Summit videos on YouTube:

  3. Pingback: Lean and ITIL – Closing the Gap | The No Crisis Blog

  4. Pingback: Lean IT: Start Here! | The No Crisis Blog

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