Why is Lean Principles gaining importance in Software industry

Why is Lean Principles gaining importance in Software industry

The concept of Lean originated from the manufacturing industry as it focused on the theme of efficiency based on optimizing work flow. Lean principles evolved from Japanese manufacturing industry and the term was first coined by John Krafcik in a Fall 1988 article, "Triumph of the Lean Production System," published in the Sloan Management Review and based on his masters thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Krafcik had been a quality engineer in the Toyota-GM NUMMI joint venture in California before coming to MIT for MBA studies. Krafciks research was continued by the International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP) at MIT, which produced the international best-seller book coauthored by Jim Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos called The Machine That Changed the World.

The fundamental focus of Lean in working from the point of view of Customer Value has already shown very encouraging results.

The fundamental focus of Lean in working from the point of view of Customer Value has already shown very encouraging results. Starting from cycle time reduction to throughput improvement by focusing on eliminating/minimizing non-value adding activities, many software organizations have already crafted a software project planning and delivery process based only on customer value. These operational principles may not exactly match Toyota Lean success now, but are derived from successful and sometimes unsuccessful attempts in trying to apply them in the software world. The note describes these principles in brief and how these lenses have already yielded tools and techniques to improve operational efficiency manifold!

Principles of Lean

As given by the Lean organization, in simple terms for implementing the lean principles are as follows and depicted in fig

  1. Identify the value which a customer would derive out of the product or service.

  2. Identify all the steps in the value stream for that product or service product, eliminating whenever possible those steps that do not create value.

  3. Ensure that the process flow is kept simple so that the work flow would be seamless.

  4. As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.

  5. As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.

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Some of the important tenets used in Lean include:

  • Value stream mapping

  • Pull

  • 5 S

  • Visual control

  • Takt Analysis

  • JIT

  • Concurrent Engineering

  • Poka Yoke (Mistake proofing)

Lean principles primarily focus on eliminating 3Ms – Muda (Eliminate waste), Muri (Reduce Variability) and Mura (Overburden).


Mura, oftentimes referred to as unevenness, occurs whenever there is an interruption in the smooth and consistent flow of materials or information. In his book Gemba Kaizen, A Common Sense Approach to Management (McGraw-Hill, 1997), Masaaki Imai defines mura as "irregularity or variability." While muda is easy to see in the workplace, mura is much more difficult and can be seen only by following the rule of "genchi genbutsu," or "go and experience." In order to see the waste of mura or unevenness you must go to the actual place where the work or activity is occurring and experience the conditions for yourself. If you see one or more employees working very hard while others are not, you have mura. There is an imbalance or unevenness in the work that is causing one group of people - or machines - to have to work at a different pace than another. Oftentimes this happens when a lesser experienced employee is assigned a position for which he or she is inadequately prepared. This lack of preparation is entirely due to management's failure to provide proper instruction and skills development for that person. When this person's output takes more time than another's, the entire process inevitably slows down to the pace of the lesser experienced person.


Muri is defined by Imai as "strain or difficulty." Muri occurs whenever people or equipment are being overburdened or overstressed. Take the example of the lesser experienced worker; not only is he or she unable to keep up with the flow of work (mura) but he or she is probably stressing over that very fact (muri) and is more likely to become injured or make a mistake. None of these outcomes are acceptable, yet we set the stage for just such an occurrence each and every day that we assign people to tasks or jobs that they have not been adequately prepared to perform. They stress out when they fall behind, we stress out because they are falling behind, and the vicious circle goes round and round until something (or someone) breaks.

In conclusion proper management, matching the right skill set to job description and skill development are the three essential things that are required to bring down Mura and eliminate Muri

About the Author

Chandrakumar Raman – Lead Quality of HP Chennai and Hyderabad, centers and drives Quality Initiatives. He has 21 years of experience which includes stint in IBM and WIPRO. He is an Engineering graduate with a PG Diploma in Mgt with a Master Black Belt and currently leads the Lean Sigma initiative at HP. He has Software Quality Engineering for ME students at Anna university .He is the current President of SPIN Chennai and Program Chair of ASQ Chennai and also the member in board of studies of ICTAT

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