An ultimate guide to Lean Software Development - Understanding its definition & principles

August 19, 2022
An ultimate guide to Lean Software Development - Understanding its definition & principles


In this value-driven market, successful software methodologies come and go, while only a few stay. But who would've guessed that a software model developed in the 1940s by Toyota would be widely in use today by some of the top companies in the world?

Known as a value-driven approach, lean software development helps run a business driven toward customer satisfaction. Lean software principles focus on speeding up the development process by focusing on the end product that reaches the customer. Hence, this is also known as the minimum viable product strategy.

What are the principles of lean software development?

Before implementing lean software development in your organization, it's essential to break down the principles. The main aim is to minimize waste and maximize value throughout the production line. Whether you outsource software development or do it internally, you need to understand the principles and workflows during the development process. The principles of lean software for software development include the following.

1. Waste elimination

In the process of software development, anything that does not bring value to the final product or the business needs to be eliminated. This contributes to building quality, as the unwanted processes or materials are disposed of. This can be on the basis of feedback, experience, and the ability of the development team to eliminate waste during the development process. For instance, these are some of the issues that may be eliminated during the development process,

  • Code errors, repeats, unwanted sequences

  • Data replication

  • Task switching

  • Partially done work

  • Unwanted communication

  • Extra features that add to unnecessary complications

2. Incorporating quality

This is the process of scrutinizing the development stage. Removing the wastes may not be enough unless coupled with strict detection of any lack in quality. When the waste goes undetected, it may hamper the development process later. Some of the ways of building quality include,

  • Implementing inspection processes

  • Resolving issues immediately

  • Root cause analysis to solve defects

  • Aim to create error-free products

  • Encourage knowledge sharing within the team

While the main aim should be to build a quality packed product, the process should also improve in quality over time. Developers need to emphasize and incorporate a quality-backed development process throughout.

3. Distribute and amplify learning

There are three areas within which a developer can learn newer features, relearn, document and implement. Learning new technologies, new skills or a new area of improvement to boost customer satisfaction. This part of the process encourages the need to document, save time during relearning and implement new technologies.

Some of the methods of documenting and sharing knowledge are through knowledge hubs, upskilling, collaboration, mentorship, community events within the team and so on.

In lean development software, the learning process is supported by short feedback cycles. The concept of testing small experiments such as A/B testing is prominent in Lean methodology. Automated tools or testing tools are also used to receive feedback on processes faster to identify defects and figure out possible solutions at the earliest.

4. Encouraging & maintaining a healthy team

Lean software development principles emphasize the importance of healthy competition and a strong team rapport. In lean methodology, respect within your teams is by fostering mutual trust and by encouraging teamwork such that each individual reaches their full potential in the development process. Rather than micromanagement, here are some tips to keep in mind,

  • Set up a collaborative atmosphere

  • Create a work atmosphere where problems are viewed as a source of progress

  • Open, honest communication between team members

  • Any setbacks due to experimentation is taken upon in a positive manner

  • Encourage individual autonomy and accountability

Platforms that encourage teamwork, where members come together to resolve issues and contribute to the overall process is one of the main principles of lean development methodology.

5. Constant experiment and removal of uncertainty

The goal of lean is to remove as much uncertainty as possible by constantly sourcing feedback. By testing and experimenting, the team can notice areas of improvement or defects that can be attended to immediately, rather than having them locked in during further development. This is against the principle of traditional project management that only takes feedback once the product is rolled out.

In lean software development, making a rigid decision is put off until the end. The team is open to new ideas and considers the software as flexible, with room for improvement at every stage. This avoids making critical software decisions that may be hard to change later on.

6. Faster delivery

In lean software methodology, the entire process is optimised to encourage faster delivery of the final product. This supports the reason behind its name as 'minimum viable strategy' product. A simple solution or product is delivered, with incremental improvements of the products based on customer feedback over time.

Customer feedback is the most important process post-deployment. The process of longer planning periods in traditional development is replaced by this process of faster delivery. These products have less functionality and depend on user feedback and customizations to develop the product over time, to best match customer requirements.

7. Optimize the development process

All the components of the lean development process optimize the overall workflow. The efficiency of the workflow is boosted and any form of inefficiency is rooted out and eliminated before it creates a barrier. This greatly reduces the complexity of the product and the team involved, as lean development focuses on understanding the team and their processes of development.

The main principles of open communication, feedback and efficient testing serve as the pillars of adopting lean software methodology, like in kubernetes engineering. The entire process is optimised this way, leading to developers having an open mind and checking every nook and corner of the development process. All the possible risks and solutions are considered in the process, making lean development a knowledgeable, reliable process for developers and the company alike.

Advantages and disadvantages of lean software development

Now, having learned about the definition and principles of lean software development methodology, let us now have a detailed look at the advantages and disadvantages of lean software development.


  • Cost and time efficient

  • Omits unnecessary elements of a project

  • Encourages a collaborative learning and development atmosphere

  • Optimises the entire process of development

  • Helps in enhancing the skills of a developer

  • Takes a streamlined approach that encourages accountability and individual work


  • May not be suitable for projects that cannot take risks. Lean development takes on risks with newer technologies and does continuous testing to identify problems even before they arise.

  • Requires a dedicated developer team from start to end.

  • Any additions or deletions to the team could affect the process and progress.

  • In the absence of mentors, newer employees may have to fill their own knowledge gaps which can reduce the speed of development.

  • Need to update or create documentation at all steps of the process

Why go for lean software development?

Even if your organisation is not keen on adapting lean software development right away, it is essential for all leaders and organizations to know about lean methodology. It may not suit all, but there may be certain projects that may benefit from the advantages of lean methodology. Exploring the results and processes of other organizations that use lean software development can also provide insight into tips and tricks of the whole process.

It's always better to go a step beyond understanding the principles and learn about implementing these steps. Examples and experience can help your organization decide if lean software development can be the best fit for a project. Based on your team collaboration, and project requirements, analyzing the benefits of lean software development is a prerequisite before adapting the process for your end product.

Talk to our experts if you need additional information or guidance on lean software development.