2 ◾ Making IT Lean: Applying Lean Practices to the Work of IT
project behind schedule, but, during that time, we had business users who
couldn’t access critical business applications. Another consequence is that
all of the other work that the Apps Support team had in its queue is now
delayed as well.
We could carry the example further, but this is probably sufﬁcient to
make the point. Another day in the life of IT perhaps, but there is a decid-
edly operational interpretation of events that makes this completely similar
to problems we might confront on a production line in a factory. We have
“products” in the form of projects and tasks being pushed down the line. We
have volume and schedule demands being placed on resources. Most impor-
tantly, for our purposes here, we have delays in getting products completed,
we have backlogs and bottlenecks at points along the production line, and,
ﬁnally, we have defects in the product itself.
Delays, bottlenecks, backlogs, and defects. This is a not uncommon pro-
ﬁle for work in IT, and, even if the results are not always catastrophic, they
are often critical enough in our day-to-day life to occupy signiﬁcant amounts
of time in their prevention or remediation. These symptoms of underlying
problems (for that is what they really are) also are precisely in the ballpark
of Lean improvement and Lean solutions.
So what is Lean? For right now, let’s just say it’s an approach to solving
problems that emphasizes quality and efﬁciency in operations, especially for
the processes that underlie these operations. In other words, all the world of
operational process, regardless of domain, serves as the stage for Lean appli-
cation. That means IT, too.
That is not much of a deﬁnition, but we think that the question is almost
like asking “What is yoga?” We can deﬁne it upfront, but it’s probably bet-
ter to just try it out. Here our philosophy is that we can address the ques-
tion “What is Lean?” from multiple perspectives (which we will throughout
this book), but it also makes sense for the reader to get real experience with
Lean along the way, if for no other reason than that doing reinforces learn-
ing, and learning Lean is what this book is about. To this end, we will be
using simple examples of various Lean tools throughout this book, in the
hope that this will help the learning process.
Ironically, even though Lean has its origins in manufacturing, we won’t
have a lot to say about this area of application. One of the main reasons is