Find your unique way to Lean Development

Everybody’s looking forward on Lean Development, Lean Engineering. Clarifying what it covers may be really helpful since different meanings have been given to it.

Lean Development is applying Lean to development processes, introducing new products, services whatever the type of these products and services may be. It is in fact function of the types of services and products you are developing, which can be splitted in two large groups:

  • Mainly Software based and « fast to apply modification »
  • Mostly Hardware based approach and « complex to organize »

On the first lean software group, we do have : Growthhacking, Lean Startup, Lean Software development and Lean Software engineering like Scrum, XP Programing approachs and Agile Software methologies. These approaches recommend flexibility and agility, with a weekly frequency basis. Its core principles are summarized in the Lean Startup Building-Measuring-Learning loop : how can you accelerate and optimize this loop by every step you are performing. Whether this is through Growthhacking parallel tests and slight modifications, Scrum iterations or agile organizations. To progress on this topic, lots of resources are available from agile project managers, agile coachs, scrum masters… The most important point, in addition to their experience, relates to their own flexiblity, adaptation to your type of products and software.


The second group covers Lean System Engineering, Lean Product Development inspired from Toyota Product Development best practices and System Program Management. They are originaly inspired from a planning project approach and organization, applying Toyota and Lean principles to simplify it.

The most developed and known part of it is derived from Toyota automotive industry lean. However, like in Lean Manufacturing deployment, where 98% of its copy/paste in other industries simply failed, the same rootcauses will lead to the same failure rates concerning the Lean Development copy/paste approach. Industry Week 2007 benchmark article that inspired Jeffrey Liker and Mike Rother insists on root causes as top management not committed, unwilling to recognize the cultural change impact mostly by the fact that Lean is not process but a complete new mindset and way of thinking.

The recommendation is not to copy/paste by comparison, but to get inspired and to see what to apply. Don’t stay dogmatic, be smart and apply what relates both to your market and your own company culture. Your teams have their own strenghts and talents, capitalize on them to build your own way to Lean Development. Yes, let’s get inspired from Toyota great principles. And, as well and at the same level of importance, the PMI -Project Management Institute- has also developed an interesting way to combine Lean with Project management through Lean Enablers. And, if your industry deals with complex System Engineering, look for a complete System Engineering approach integrating Lean concepts, which has been as well developed.

Download here the Article on ‘Why Lean Programs Fail’




More generally, instead of confronting the previous two groups approaches, finding your optimized way to Lean Development consists in finding it’s common principles and getting inspired from what fits to your culture and organization:

Getting to your Why to Lean Development, and the corresponding leverages, this will help you define the right orientations –do not copy Toyota automotive industry, get inspired from them and relate to your organisation culture.
Developing your own ownership and Leadership, getting from a limited conventional Engineering scope towards a full wing to wing range : from marketing (with Lean Startup for instance) towards Design for Service, including the support and steering processes.

Extraordinary companies, like Toyota, are the ones that find their own way to their uniqueness. The product and service development process is key in a company achievement and success. By being inspired from different Lean product development approach, like the ones of the two groups previously described, find your way to your Lean engineering and development teams, company market and culture.

Find here the detailed approach to your way to Lean Development and Lean Engineering:

Move your company from « envy » and « imitation » to « inspiration » and « uniqueness » to progressively find the right balance between external inspiration through benchmark and internal capabilities and talent development.

Let’s remember Ralph Waldo Emerson : « Envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide ».