A review of "The Art of Lean Software Development" by Curt Hibbs, Steve Jewett, and Mike Sullivan.

Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc. 2009, ISBN 978-0-596-51731-1.

Reviewed by Dwayne Phillips

I saw this book on the shelf in the local Barnes and Noble. I had read several things by the Poppendiecks on Lean Development; O'Reilly publishes high quality books, and so I bought it. I like the book with a few mild disappointments. First, the book is thin - about 120 pages. That is fine, but the publisher made it thin by using tiny print. Why do they do that? Second, the chapter that taught me the most was the final one. I didn't like waiting to the end to find the best part of the book.

The authors start the book with the Standish Group Chaos study. I didn't think anyone did that any more. The publisher or editor should have removed that section. Then they move into descriptions of Agile methods and Lean methods. They have plenty of good material here. If you are in management and do not recognize these terms, this book is for you. The authors give proper credit to Tom and Mary Poppendieck.

I didn't like their description of the Waterfall or serial model. I have seen that model work quite well in many projects under the right circumstances. A description of how to pick a model depending on the circumstances would have been good here.

The major part of the book (chapters 3-8 of a 9-chapter book) describes the main practices of Lean software development. The authors present the practices in the order they recommend the reader adopt them. The practice and their recommended order of adoption are:

Practice 0: Source code management and scripted builds
Practice 1: Automated testing
Practice 2: Continuous integration
Practice 3: Less code
Practice 4: Short iterations
Practice 5: Customer participation

There is little that is new in this book. Its good points are that, even with the tiny print, it is brief, to the point, and gives the reader a path to follow to work lean practices into an existing organization. If you are unfamiliar with lean or haven't considered it for a while, pick up this book.