THE CHALLENGE: IMPROVE SOFTWARE
Are you frustrated that your soware development projects deliver less
than promised, at more cost than you would expect? Have you heard the
promise of Lean and Agile soware development, but you don’t know how
to get your organization to adopt it eectively? Does your career success
depend on improving your organization’s ability to deliver soware-based
business or product improvements? If so, this book is for you.
Soware development is oen a frustrating and dicult endeavor for
business leaders. ey are typically neither trained nor experienced in
technology, but their success may be dependent on technological success.
Likewise, technology leaders may understand what an eective environ-
ment looks like, but they may not have the management skills or experi-
ence to move there. If a development organization needs improvement,
what is the best way to make it?
at is the question faced by the two narrators of this book, who tell the
tales of the transformations they wrought in their two very dierent com-
panies. You will have a ring-side seat at their sides, so you can follow their
thought processes and learn from their successes and failures. By reading
these intertwined, entertaining stories about two companies—MCCA and
FinServia—you can get some ideas on how you might go about making
change in your own organization.
MCCA was a promising mid-sized company, bought by a private equity
rm, and set on a path of rapid growth. Both its operations and its prod-
uct development (which was primarily soware based) were chaotic,
xiv • Introduction
dependent entirely on the heroic eorts of a few dedicated and tireless
individuals; its results were alternately spectacular and miserable. Its chal-
lenge was to standardize and improve its operations, and accelerate and
make reliable its product development. Adding the right structure to the
chaos was the goal.
FinServia, on the other hand, was a newly independent division of a much
larger company. Its products and services had ossied, its customers hanging
on out of habit and to avoid switching costs. Its operations and product devel-
opment were highly regimented, slow to change, late to market, and behind
the competition. FinServia’s parent company had recently failed in a major
eort to strategically integrate its operations with other divisions, and for lack
of a better idea, had turned it loose to try to compete on its own. Its challenge
was to loosen the death grip of bureaucracy and wasteful process, and accel-
erate and make reliable its product development. Reducing initiative-killing
overhead and giving people the room and structure to learn was the goal.
is book is the tale of the transformations of these two companies, toward
a common operational and product development process goal: Lean
operations and Lean/Agile soware development. e tales will interlock
through our two narrators, Jim “Wes” Wesleyan and Mary O’Connell.
Wes and Mary are a new couple, just starting their life together, as they
help lead the change at their respective companies. ey have varied expe-
rience with Lean/Agile soware development, but they are both commit-
ted to it as a next-stage vision for their organizations, even though the
companies start from very dierent places.
To illustrate a broader set of transformational challenges and approaches,
our two narrators have very dierent backgrounds and temperaments.
Our lead narrator, Wes, is a polished ex-consultant, trained initially in
law but never practicing, skilled at communication and learning but not
expert in product or soware development. In contrast, Mary is a highly
expert soware product development leader, strongly technical, with pas-
sionate and committed views of how things should be done, and little tol-
erance for the fools who would do it dierently. We will have the good
fortune to listen in on their conversations as they guide each other in their
own transformation projects.