Lean management is just that: management without the superfluous bits. Lean management sheds everything not strictly necessary and keeps what really matters. Lean management helps an organization’s employees combat waste by avoiding “non-value”. The lean method sets out to identify “value time” in a production process, in the broad sense. It is seen as a collective continuous improvement system – also known as Kaizen (in Japanese) – which advocates solving problems on the ground with the stakeholders.
Lean management should never be reduced to a method for cutting manpower costs. On the contrary, as production processes improve, the organization has to channel resources away from production and into new value-creating tasks. More, faster, better. Unlike Taylorism, though, lean management focuses on employee well-being and aims to improve working conditions as a way to improve productivity. More and more corporate management teams are applying lean principles and being delighted by the results. By weeding out actions that serve no real purpose in processes, along with unsuitable tools and sub-optimal work positions, organizations can shorten production times and delivery lead times.
Lean development is the application of lean principles to software development. This basically means using iterative development and agile methods, summed up in the following 7 principles:
- Eliminate waste, i.e. anything that doesn’t add value to the product in the user’s eyes;
- Amplify learning: use the best methods, tools, languages, etc.;
- Deliver new software versions as fast as possible;
- Empower the team by giving it an active part to play in continuous improvement;
- Build quality in, right from the design stage;
- See the product as a whole;
- Decide as late as possible.
Lean management, “One2Team-style”
One2Team applies lean management at various levels:
- In its close relationships with customers
- In work processes and methods
- In its choice of technologies
- In its drive for continuous improvement
- In the design and user friendliness of the solution developed
One2Team strives to be very close to its customers. In its processes and products alike, One2Team and its customers work hand-in-hand. “It’s barely exaggerated to say that the developer writes his lines of code by the customer’s side,” explains One2Team’s VP R&D, Denis Barthélemy. One2Team has put together a panel of customers, known as beta testers, for whom new features are enabled before the product hits the market. After a test phase, they in turn give their opinion at weekly meetings with the product owner and a member of the technical team, to refine the notion of what they need from the tool in terms of features. The customers contribute suggestions and feedback about the ergonomic aspects, ease of use, performance and design. Every three months, One2Team User Clubs meet to present product enhancements and discuss new user requirements, and functional and line-of-business issues.
One2Team’s customers are mainly large organizations, which can sometimes have very long decision cycles. Most have change management, digital transformation or upgrade initiatives in progress. The One2Team solution meets the strategic and operational challenges they face (and fills the gap in their own in-house resources). For example, telecom integrators need to persuade their teams to use mobile and digital technology in their operations. It can take months, if not years, to validate, develop and present software using in-house procedures and teams, so these organizations opt for the One2Team solution and leverage its agility to make faster progress.
Work processes and methods: very short development cycles and a new software version every week
A system of weekly version updates and quality control means the team can release a new version every week, with very short acceptance testing cycles.
“We develop incrementally, but whatever we develop must be top quality because it will go into production right away,” says Denis Barthélemy.
In One2Team’s view of lean, quality is fundamental. And to achieve it, easy-to-use features are developed with as few bugs as possible. “Test-driven development”, based on the same principle as test programming, is key here. All lines of code are run through a test ecosystem (unit tests, integration tests and acceptance tests), which ensures the new feature is of sufficiently high quality before it goes into production.
Another pillar of lean management at One2Team is the ability to bring new versions into production very quickly. Known as continuous delivery, it keeps delivery cycles for new versions very short, trimming them down from a matter of weeks or even months to an “on demand” system. It is also important to be able to very quickly correct or disable a feature that is not doing the job. The aim is always to minimize the impact on production.
This agility is achieved through 3 different types of weekly meeting:
- Retrospectives: The entire R&D team gets together every Wednesday afternoon for an hour and a half to present the new features and discuss the problems encountered during the week. Each team member suggests ways to improve the methods or the product and provides feedback, which are used to continually adjust methods and processes. “Depending on the new tasks, new recruits or new customer requests that have come in, we take a critical look at our methods and management, and adjust them to suit. That’s another side of lean management at One2Team,” adds Denis Barthélemy.
- Stand-ups: every morning, the scrum master holds a stand-up meeting to solve any block points within the R&D teams and go over what has to be done that day.
- Product progress reports: product managers give the rest of the One2Team team members a rundown on the new product features that have gone into production, before presenting them to the customers.
An ongoing quest for learning
One2Team operates in an ecosystem of best practices. The research and development team organizes meetups at which experts from various organizations share their knowledge and experience, and discuss a specific subject or theme. One2Team also organizes Brown Bag Lunches, where an outside expert comes to pass on his or her knowledge in return for lunch. One2Team is actively involved in the developer community and its teams keep their skills sharp by taking part in developer-related events (UX, development, graphics, ergonomics, development best practices in continuous delivery and agility, etc.).
Among One2Team’s sources of inspiration in France, when it comes to agile methods and lean management, are trailblazers like lesfurets.com, BlaBlaCar and Xebia, all leading representatives of the French Touch.
Constantly evolving technologies
Another sign of the lean mentality at One2Team is its willingness to embrace new technologies. The team constantly challenges the solutions and technology choices made in development. New technologies are brought in as time goes by, with Brown Bag Lunches and expert meetups organized to continually update the toolbox used for product development. Moreover, having developed with Angular JS for a while, One2Team is now adopting a new development technology: React JS.
These constant technology upgrades also hold for the interfaces of One2Team-developed solutions. The application’s interfaces get a makeover every year or so.
To sum up, One2Team defines its lean management as a virtuous loop of continuous product improvement, in which the team is in close contact with the customer, delivering simple, high-quality versions in incremental enhancements. Customer feedback prompts incremental improvements in a continuous process.