Bringing Lean Principles to Service Industries

Bringing ‘Lean’ Principles to Service Industries by Julia Hanna

“One of the important lessons we’ve seen on the ground is how Wipro approached the launch of this lean initiative,” Staats says. “They didn’t come out with big banners and say, ‘OK, today your work is lean work, and yesterday it wasn’t.’ They started with a small group and recruited other people from there. It was a very controlled experimentation.”

In their research, Staats and Upton document how the use of lean principles affected the workflow at Wipro. The concept of “kaizen,” or continuous improvement, for example, resulted in a more iterative approach to software development projects versus a sequential, “waterfall” method in which each step of the process is completed in turn by a separate worker.

By sharing mistakes across the process, the customer and project team members benefit individually and collectively from increased opportunities to learn from their errors; the project also moves along more quickly because bugs are discovered in the system earlier in the development process.

Iteration is very important. It is important in proper use of the PDSA cycle – many quick iterations are much better than one long slow one. And for software application development it is an excellent strategy.

I think iteration is even more important in software application development than most other areas (for now anyway) because many stakeholders cannot visualize what they need from software. Therefore attempts to force rigid requirements up front fail. No matter how much effort you put in the stakeholder just doesn’t know until they see it and use it – then they can tell you what they want changed. so design a system that works given this – iteration and agile development work very well.

Related: lean thinking articlesExperiment Quickly and OftenManagement Consulting (what does the consultants web site show?)Indian Firms Learning From Toyota (on Wipro posted here in 2005)posts on improving software developmentNot Lean Retailing

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