5 Ways to Make Your Development Value Stream Lean

New technologies allow companies to gain a more holistic view of their processes. With that, more and more leaders are looking at their value streams. Value streams are the various steps an organization takes to deliver value to their customers. Awareness of your value streams is vital to success in today’s business environment. 

But, many companies tend to only focus their attention on their operational value streams. These concern how your product or service gets into the hands of consumers. Effective operational value streams also align with development value streams, which focus on delivering better value to the operational value streams and ultimately your customers.

Operational value streams tend to be well versed in lean practices; however, lean principles are often not fully incorporated in development value streams. When operational and development value streams both function based on lean principles, both customers and organizations win.

Ignoring development value streams can lead to unintended consequences. Value streams that are unaligned slow down your operational value streams. Additionally, it can also cause employees to burnout as they try to force your sluggish process to deliver timely results. Fortunately, once you know what to look for, it becomes easier to take a step back and make your Development Value Streams Lean. In particular, there are 5 simple solutions to common problems with development value streams:

1. Empowering Your Teams

Conventional wisdom suggests that teams should be made up of people with roughly the same skillset. In other words, development teams should consist of developers, UX teams should have be made up of UX designers.

Yet, our Development Value Streams are complex and require multiple skillsets to keep running. So, why should we silo people with different skills from one another?

Instead, create teams that cover every area of expertise needed to complete a project. This limits the downtime that results from passing a task from one team to another.

Additionally, teams with a wide range of expertise can use it to make informed decisions about the project. Further empower your teams with the ability to make decisions based on their expertise. This frees up leadership to focus their effort elsewhere. More importantly, it lets teams simply do what they do best, deliver value.

2. Managing Your Work in Progress

When creating solutions that feed into your delivery, you’ll quickly recognize how complex those solutions are. There is a lot that goes into a successful solution and no one part or feature is unimportant. Because of this, it can be tempting to make progress on many portions of the solution at a time.

However, this mindset can often lead to your team juggling multiple priorities, slowing down progress on all of them. Productivity plummets by 20% when workers are switching between two priorities like this. Those numbers only get worse as you try to work on more and more features at once. 

Instead, focus your team’s attention on fully delivering one feature at a time. Only after completing that one feature should you move on to another. Doing this ensures that your teams stay productive.

As an added benefit, it also allows you to show clear progress towards reaching your goals. Partial progress on a number of different features can be hard to quantify. However, checking entire features off of your list makes the state of your project clear.

3. Automating Your Processes

Often times, human input is necessary to ensure quality solutions. But, when trying to make our Development Value Streams Lean, it’s just as important to find where human input isn’t necessary.

Automating various processes can go a long way in speeding up your Development Value Stream. The most common places to start are testing, integration, and deployment. These processes are often time-consuming for humans, but can take bots a matter of minutes. Additionally, bots are often able to deliver more consistent, quality results in these tasks.

More importantly, automating these processes gives people freedom to focus on tasks that actually need human attention.

4. Handing-Off Your Releases

Releasing a solution that your teams have been building towards is exciting. Yet, it also brings with it unique challenges.

When the time for release, it’s often treated as an all-hands-on-deck situation. Teams who typically focus on adding value through development must suddenly stop everything and focus on the release. This has the potential to bring not only the team to a halt, but even an entire department.

Yet, there is another way to go about the release process. Handing a solution off to the business operations department frees up those teams to continue working. This turns the release process from a roadblock into just another part of the FLOW of your operational value stream.

5. Revisiting Your Work

Sudden, dramatic changes to your development value stream are from time to time. Yet, they aren’t the largest contributor to success.

Rather, short, incremental improvements to your processes deliver the most consistent long-term results. But these small changes require revisiting your finished work to discover what went right, wrong, and how you can improve.

This can take place at a regularly scheduled Retrospective meeting. At a Retrospective, teams will come together to look at their most recent iteration (a period of 8-12 weeks where work is being done). They’ll discuss areas of success and will try to replicate the practices that led to them. They’ll also talk about struggles that they had and what they can do in the future to minimize those struggles.

Performing these retrospectives on a regular basis puts teams in the habit of analyzing their own processes. This provides an opportunity to make small, meaningful changes that add up over time.

Bringing it All Together

For something as complex as your Development Value Stream, no one change will perfect your process. However, when you get serious about making it Lean, small steps in the right direction can snowball into tangible improvement.

Empowering your teams prevents both bottlenecks and downtime.

Managing your work in progress keeps productivity consistent and helps to better gauge your speed and success.

Automating your processes improves both time and quality for tasks that don’t need human input.

Handing-off your releases helps keep your teams focused on value and keeps the FLOW moving forward.

Finally, revisiting your work allows teams to celebrate their successes and learn from their struggles.

EIT has an excellent track record of helping our clients optimize their value streams. For more information on how EIT can help your organization, click here.