Lean Software Development Methodology: Pillars, Principles, Use Cases, Benefits

Back in the 1970s, Toyota encountered a bump in its product delivery. To solve this problem, they invented a project management system that was to help them eliminate wastage in the manufacturing process, Toyota Production System (TPS) — now popularly known as the lean management system.

To say this methodology was a success would be an understatement. The company’s revenue boomed and lean management system is one of the key factors behind Toyota’s success story. Today, not only have all of Toyota’s competitors adopted the lean methodology, the system has gradually been adopted in many sectors, particularly in IT where it’s known as lean software development.

The lean management system uses the lean thinking philosophy and has proven itself in several industries. Here are some use cases of lean thinking philosophy.

Lean development methodology

Lean Thinking Philosophy Use Cases in Software Development

  1. Lean product development — Lean thinking streamlines the production process leading to faster production of high-quality products.
  2. Lean project management — Lean thinking can help your dedicated development teamwork cohesively using the lean management system.
  3. Lean UX development — Improve your customer’s user experience by tailoring the product to their needs.
  4. Lean startup — Whether you are launching your organization or a project, lean thinking can make the process smoother and less stressful.

A practical example of lean thinking applied in lean software development

Let’s say you are a banking institution looking to develop an application that supports your business needs. You approach Newxel to match you with the right software development engineers to help you build and maintain a  dedicated development team.

If you decide to use lean thinking systems, you can rest assured they will help you streamline the software development process. The goal is to help you get to the end product quickly and meet your customer needs at the same time keeping your Offshore team motivated. As you will see below in the methodology, one crucial principle is to respect the people. Respecting them means allowing them to make decisions, listening to their opinions, and having healthy discussions. When your team members feel valued, they are more motivated to work hard.

Lean Thinking Principles

The pillars of lean systems support the lean thinking philosophy. We have outlined them below:

a. Define the value you are giving your users

Your customers do not buy products because marketing trends or forecasts told them to. They buy products they feel are valuable to them. For that reason, forecasts and trends should not be the basis of your project development plan. Your customer’s point of view and what they need should be your guiding principles.

By performing qualitative and quantitative research, you will define what your customers value. This can then become the goal your team works towards. That way, you can provide your customers with a product they will pay for.

b. Map out the value stream

A plan will help you outline how you will turn the goal (concept) into a finished product or update to deliver to your customers. By mapping out your plan (for example, using flowcharts), you will easily identify any wasteful steps, bottlenecks, or pain points that would delay the development process or cost you unnecessary expenses.

c. Create flow

To improve flow, you need to improve the plan developed when mapping out the value stream. You will do this by making improvements to the pain points and bottlenecks and removing any unnecessary waste. This is called eliminating waste.

d. Seek perfection

This improvement process is iterative and helps your team to visualize and optimize their operations. As your team works, they will identify more bottlenecks or think of fresh ways to solve problems to achieve the goal. They, therefore, repeat the steps until the best value is defined.

Please remember that while lean practices are concerned with the technical work the teams are doing, the tactics used are people-focused. This means that while the goal may be to optimize the components of the development process, the project managers should consider the team and ensure the changes do not make it hard for them to do their work.

Lean Development Methodology Principles

The lean development process will help your team to deliver more efficient products and services. With lean software development, your staff does their best to develop or upgrade your product to meet the needs of your customers. There are seven methodology principles, and they are outlined below.

1. Eliminate waste

Waste is anything that does not add value to the development process. Sometimes it can be something that slows down the process flow. Whatever impedes the optimal flow of the project development process should be eliminated.

2. Create knowledge

Project planning and implementation in lean development methodology is an iterative process. You mapped out the value stream, identified waste and eliminated it, and created a new value stream map with the changes. This new plan is implemented.

Your team analyses how it works and identifies any waste that needs eliminating. After it, an alternative plan is developed and implemented. With each iteration, your team learns about the best practices that help them achieve peak performance optimally. Implementation is done in short cycles, and feedback is used to help adjust deliverables.

3. Procrastination

When applying the lean principle, many people are often baffled by the mantra “Decide as late as possible.” Ideally, you are asked to procrastinate making a decision until the last responsible moment. The assumption is that you will have gathered enough information about that decision to act on it by that time.

Some people feel that it contradicts the  failing forward principle, which advocates for deciding fast, but that does not have to be the case. When failing forward, you do not wait to be certain about the outcomes of a decision before making it. You just make sure that you have enough information to start and do that.

This means that the two principles can work together, encouraging teams to gather as much information as possible before making a decision (procrastinate) and take risks (fail forward) even when they don’t have all the information.

4. Emphasize on quality

The development team should be encouraged to do quality work at every stage of development. This means that they will spend less time looking for errors and tracking defects. This principle contributes a lot to saving time long term.

For example, if the coders ensure that every line of code they write is working and is relevant to the task, they will spend little time going over all the codes looking for errors later. This is in line with the idiom ‘prevention is better than cure.’

5. Respect people

While the project manager may look at the project as a whole and make executive decisions they feel are best, sometimes, the team members are better placed to say what is possible and what isn’t. Thus, the team must be allowed to voice their opinions, and these opinions are valued.

Some invaluable skills to lean thinking teams are healthy communication, conflict resolution, and the ability to hold healthy, productive discussions. When you give your team a voice, they feel closer to the project and are more motivated to do their best. They feel valued.

6. Deliver fast

Fast delivery goes hand in hand with eliminating waste. When you improve the workflow, the team can work faster and deliver without compromising on quality.

Please note that fast delivery is not about overworking your team but about creating functional value streams. The iterative process of planning, implementing, reviewing, and repeating leads to prompt delivery.

7. Optimize the whole

Many products and services comprise several components working together to accomplish a goal (provide the customer with something valuable). With the lean development methodology, you want to make improvements to optimize each component, not just some of the parts. This makes the end product better than if only one aspect of its development was optimized.

If you work in software development, you may still be asking yourself, ‘what is lean software development methodology?’ The lean software development methodology involves applying the seven principles highlighted above to the software development process. For example, it will include eliminating waste in the developmental process and adding knowledge along the way to make the process more efficient.

Best Practices in Lean Development

Some practices in lean development systems help them work optimally. They include:

  1. Eliminate waste — This is a simple three-step process. First, find waste, then eliminate it. Finally, repeat.
  2. Empowerment and autonomy — Empower your team members to work independently without the leaders’ micromanagement. Allow your team members to make decisions. This will motivate them to work. Effective communication is crucial in lean systems.
  3. Involve the users — The goal is to provide value to your customers. You do this by tailoring your project goals and your final product or service to the customer’s wants and needs. One way to involve your users indirectly, especially after the initial research stage, is to craft customer personas and use them as your guide.

Benefits of Lean Software Development

There are many benefits to implementing lean software development principles in your business:

  1. They save time — by eliminating waste; the systems allow teams to deliver results in the least amount of time possible
  2. They manage teams effectively — Lean management empowers your team members and motivates them to do their best work because you have streamlined the process.
  3. Eliminate waste — Take out of the system anything that does not make the end product better and does not improve the process in any way.
  4. Increase productivity — A happy team means a more productive team. Additionally, mapping out the development process and assigning tasks to members means that everyone knows their role.
  5. Leads to high-quality deliverables — Lean systems lead to high-quality deliverables because the production process is effective and the deliverables are geared towards the customer.

How Lean Software Development Applies to Offshore Teams

Lean software development is applicable for both offshore and in-house teams. This is because, for effective communication and flow of work, the project manager needs to stay in contact with the team and work together with them through the development process.

Let’s say you are a business that wants to develop software and are looking to use outstaffing services. You contact an outstaffing company like Newxel to match you with a dedicated development team, for instance, in Ukraine. You will have complete control of the team, and with their help, you will apply lean systems methodology principles to the software development process. You will be able to create a high-quality product in a short period that meets your customers’ needs and wants.

It is possible to use the lean system for both small and large teams. For large teams, it may be more effective to divide the large team into smaller teams and manage the smaller teams individually. Each team can be viewed as a component of the larger team and optimization would be done the same way it is done to individual components of the development process.


When applied to many projects, the lean thinking philosophy can streamline processes leading to high-quality deliverables quickly. It perfectly works with offshore development as well. If you wish to outstaff your software development process, you can get your dedicated team then apply lean development philosophies to get your desired results. If you are looking for a reliable outstaffing partner to connect you to the best engineers in Ukraine,  contact us today. 

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