10 Fascinating Reasons Companies Use Kaizen Principles for Software Development

Kaizen Principles for Software Development
Software development is the art of building products and services that make our lives more convenient. Software is eating the world. It has penetrated virtually every industry and function today. As companies are looking at the best ways to gain the edge for building software. Kaizen principles for software development are proving incredibly useful to bring out the best in teams. 

Studies have shown that the difference between the best and worst programmers is more than 10x. How can companies maximise their ability to create quality software products and services? Well, the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen is an amazing tool that can bridge the gaps, reduce disparities and produce quality software consistently.

Software development using Kaizen can help organisations build better environments where teams are engaged and work efficiency is high. It can help organisations tangibly improve the output of their workforce and produce quality results. Here is a look at the Kaizen principles for software development that companies are using to make a compelling difference:

1. Improve Everything Continuously

The first Kazen principle is about improving everything continuously. It takes an approach of never stopping to improve the processes and systems to produce quality products & services.

The aim of software development is to work on iterative versions of products or services to manage ongoing improvisations. New technologies enable features that were not possible with previous generations of technologies. Software products that improve continuously manage to stay ahead of competition.

2. Eliminate Old Practices
Kaizen Principles for Software DevelopmentThe best companies know which old practices need to make way for new innovations. Take the example of Netflix, a DVD rental company that moved to online video streaming. It made the switch discarding its older practices. It made the move to stay ahead of the competition.

Blockbuster, the leading DVD rental company that had the opportunity to buy Netflix lost its way. Netflix was on offer for $50 million for Blockbuster. But, Blockbuster refused the deal. 

Blockbuster, which was a behemoth with over $8.4 billion market cap, didn’t buy Netflix. Eventually Blockbuster lost its way and declared bankruptcy in 2014. On the other hand, Netflix is worth more than $228 billion today.

Even the biggest and most established businesses are not proof of disruptions and changes. Companies that constantly find ways to innovate, stay ahead of competitors by eliminating the old and embracing the new, lead the way. 

3. Accept No Excuses and Make Things Happen

Excuses don’t make products and services better, innovations do. The Japanese Kaizen philosophy illustrates the value in being proactive. In the software driven world, there are ample tools and products to interact with the customers. These customer interactions can be used to shape the products and services as per the needs of the customers.

The idea is to find a bunch of methods that work for your company to deliver the results. The best companies find ways to make things happen, they build new features, services and products to pleasantly surprise their customers. They make things happen by constant experimentation and connecting the dots for their customers.

4. Don’t Assume New Methods will Work

Assumptions are dangerous, they must be verified against reality. Software products and features need to be introduced to the customers at the earliest stage for their feedback & inputs. Sometimes, the assumptions of the development team can be counterintuitive and not work at all.

The best development teams expose their innovations to their customers. The customers often point out important improvisations that make the products successful. Kaizen principles encourage companies to seek inputs and check their hypothesis of development at an early stage.

5. Make Corrections
Kaizen Principles for Software DevelopmentWhen a product or service is exposed to the clients, there can be surprising ideas and improvisations suggested by them. Take for e.g. companies like Uber, Apple and Starbucks provide elicit feedback from their customers proactively. They take the inputs from their customers when a new product or service is launched. They also provide an interface where the existing customers can provide inputs on how these companies can improve further.

The best companies value customer feedback and make corrections. They stay in touch with the voice of the customer to know which way the winds are blowing. It makes a great difference for building a loyal customer base as well.

6. Empower Employees to Speak

Software development teams succeed when they are empowered and spend time discussing the project objectives with clarity. The top product teams empower employees to interact on a daily basis and bring things out in the open for discussion. It makes everyone in the team brainstorm and solve problems that matter the most. 

Kaizen and Agile methodology understand that regular interactions, communication and accountability is essential to improving the effectiveness of the teams.  

7. Get Information & Opinions from Multiple People 

A lot of innovative software products and services may not have all the information needed to succeed at the beginning. Teams can benefit by assimilating information from various sources and seeking inputs from people who have expert knowledge. 

The inputs and feedback from various stakeholders can offer different perspectives that are crucial to make the project successful. Innovations involve risks, but experimentation with the right bets and knowledge can provide good returns in the long run. 

8. Five Why Method

Kaizen Principles for Software DevelopmentAsking questions and getting to the root cause of the issue is a fundamental need for deep understanding. Kaizen emphasises asking Why to reflect on the causal relationships between things. Going deep, peeling off layers and architecting better systems requires asking why? Toyota and many other organisations have used this method effectively to create systems that drive their manufacturing processes.

The 5 Why method can be used for root cause analysis, troubleshooting, problem solving and solving problems. When a problem is encountered, ask why it happened. Your answer needs to reflect the facts, and then ask the question again until you get to the root cause. 

For the 5 Why method to yield great results, companies follow these best practices:
a) Differentiate between causes and symptoms.
b) Use white boards to write down the problem and brainstorm with your team.
c) The cause and effect relationship is the key to the right solution.
d) Make sure everyone understands the problem.
e) Be precise with the answers. Facts are important, not opinions.
f)  Create a system to address the root cause, don’t blame people.
g) Follow step by step analysis until your team understands the root cause. Don’t jump to conclusions.
h) Assess what process needs to be fixed.
i)  Make sure that the customer’s perspective is represented when asking the questions.

An illustration of the 5 Why process in action: 

i) Why did the customer complain that they couldn’t use the “Email Marketing Campaign” feature of our product? Because there was a bug in the latest version.

ii) Why was there a bug in the latest release? Because we didn’t test the specific scenario where the email sending failed.

iii) Why didn’t we test this specific use case? Because we only tested sending 1000 emails per user per day. User sent over 1000 emails and this condition was not covered during the testing phase.

iv) Why didn’t we cover 1000 emails per day per user? Because this scenario was missing from the “Email Marketing Campaign” feature test cases.

v) Why do you think it was missing from the test cases? Because our sprint discussion didn’t include the hard limits per user per day.

Once the root cause is identified, the corrective actions can be taken by the development teams. As in the case above, a hard limit restricting the customer emails to say 250 per day per user is enforced. This stops the system from breaking down.

9. Be Lean & Economic 

Software development runs the risk of adding unnecessary features that bloat the system. It confuses the customers, slows down the software, adds unnecessary bugs, development time and derails the key objectives.

Lean development reduces wastage, it lays emphasis on building the product around the core features. It eliminates waste. The Agile and Kaizen principles are both driven towards lean development, it means writing no code whenever possible by eliminating useless features. It means obsessively focusing on the core features and leaving out everything else.

This is a guiding principle for the teams to focus their efforts on building the right products by working on highest value features for the right customers. It is energising teams to solve problems with the highest leverage.

10. Don’t Stop
Kaizen Principles for Software Development

Never consider your product to be finished. There is no limit to improvement for a product or service. Kaizen believes that improvement has no limits. Figure out ways to innovate, stay ahead of your competition and serve your customers with the best possible products or services.

Great companies stretch themselves by going the extra mile to deliver truly valuable products and services. Ongoing developments, new features and innovations drive the software world. The race for the future is won by companies who move forward and make things happen for their customers. Kaizen principles for software development offer a great model that is employed effectively by companies to improve the quality of their products & services.

Kreyon Systems is a software development company building innovative products & solutions. If you have any queries for us or need assistance in building software development, please get in touch.

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