Everybody, All Together, From Early On

In the book Lean Architecture: for Agile Software Development, the authors James O. Coplien and Gertrud Bjørnvig claim that the secret to Lean is Everybody, all together, from early on. I don’t know enough of the history of Lean to say if that is true, but I do know that the “Lean Secret” works in practice.

The more I work in different projects and with different teams, the more I see that bringing in all the people that will be affected by the project, as early as possible, is a key factor to project success. This is not to say that everybody needs to be working actively on the project on a daily basis, but they should all be kept in the loop.

How do you know which people should be included? Try a short brainstorming session very early in the project with all the stakeholders you have identified so far. You can probably identify a few more people that will be affected in some way by the project. Use your imagination.

The people to include differs from organization to organization, and from project to project, but here is a partial list:

  • The product owner and the team members, such as developers and testers, are obvious.
  • Architects will want a say in how the system is designed.
  • System administrators want to know how the system affects IT operations.
  • The support organization may need to learn a bit about the system to be able to answer questions.
  • If the system requires training, the people developing the training material need to be informed as soon as possible.
  • The sales department may need to know about the system or product being built.
  • Last but not least, the users of the system may be interested in what the future brings.

Make a habit of constantly trying to identify new stakeholders. The earlier you can include them, the better, but if you late in the project find new people that should be informed, do all you can to get them up to speed on what the project is doing.

How do you keep all the stakeholders informed of what is going on? One simple way is to invite people to the demos that end each sprint. Not everyone will be able to come to every demo, but keep reminding them of the opportunity. If some people are particularly affected by something being demonstrated, push extra hard for them to attend that particular demo. Including people in mail correspondence is an easy way to keep them informed—just don’t include everyone in every correspondence. You can also try to invite people as observers to the daily stand-up meetings, but these meetings are often a bit too technical for the majority of stakeholders.

Using the Lean Secret effectively is an art that requires practice, but it can make or break a project.


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I'm a software developer with 20+ years of experience who likes to work in agile teams using Specification by Example, Domain-Driven Design, Continuous Delivery and lots of automation.

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