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New Year - Time to Get Lean

Part 1 of a series of Blogs on our experience of Agile Software Development.

As the queues outside the gym at this time of year attest to, I'm not the only person who's had this thought. 2011 certainly saw its fair share of mince pies (not to mention hot cross buns, Easter Eggs...), and I keep thinking I should do something about that - and wait until the thought passes.

However, a thought that I can't get rid of so easily is that 2011 probably saw plenty of traditional ‘waterfall’ software development, along with the overeating. This is a thought that sits uneasily with me, as users’ expectations in many of the fields we operate in are changing constantly, making it really hard to say we know all the answers.

At brightsolid, we’ve been working on a very exciting new digital project for a number of months, which we think is very exciting. In a step right outside the comfort zone of me and many of the team, we’ve taken the decision to apply the principles of lean software development from the offset, as opposed to some of the more traditional methods of coding and project management.

The agile manifesto sums this up far better than I could, but to me the key things I'll be encouraging as project lead are:

  • Empowering our development team to figure out a sensible way of achieving our vision, not specifying it to the nth level of detail
  • Keeping everything focused on how we add value to one of our end users, not how we can impress ourselves.
  • Planning to shatter our own illusions before the real world does - sharing real products with real people as quickly as we can, and being ready to hear what they tell us, however unpalatable.


I'm hoping this blog is the first in a series where I'll share my experiences of lean development on action. I'm also keenly aware that there are millions of people who are already doing it so please feel free to engage and tell us when we're doing something idiotic, reinventing the wheel or banging our heads against a brick wall - great form of learning but it gets painful after a while.

If early signs are anything to go by, I'm also hopeful this experiment will help work off those mince pies too.

Ian Webster (@websterian)

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