Kaizen: all about the continuous improvement model for software development

The Kaizen model is increasingly being adopted for the enterprise software development lifecycle. Find out everything you need to know about this model inspired by a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement…

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Originally, the word “Kaizen” means “improvement” in Japanese. In the field of software development, this term extends to the concepts of continuous integration and continuous development to bring to it the notion of “continuous improvement.

This philosophy of continuous improvement applies to both to a company’s projects, but also to its employees. It’s a real credo.

Long before the emergence of software development methodologies, “kaizen” was used to improve standardized business practice. These practices emerged in Japan, after the Second World War.

Specifically, the kaizen is the foundation of the Toyota Way. of Toyota Motor Corporation for its production and management strategy. The main concepts of this strategy are a long-term philosophy, the adoption of correct processes to produce correct results, adding value to the organization through employee development, and the continuous resolution of fundamental problems.

It is these principles that have allowed Toyota to be successful that we know him today. They are also the fundamental concepts of kaizen.

This idea of continuous improvement focuses on the fact that allow change as quickly as possible. Simple ideas for improvements can be implemented immediately or very quickly.

The aim is to humanize the workplace, but also to teach team members to experiment and to follow a scientific methodology.

What is the Kaizen model of software development?

Nowadays, Kaizen practices have strongly influenced the field of software development through the Kaizen model. This model allows a high level of quality to be achieved through continuous improvement.

The developers and other team members are held responsible for the various aspects of the application. Moreover, rather than being accountable to their superiors, they are accountable to their peers.

According to this doctrine, this form of responsibility towards the people we come into contact with on a daily basis, with similar responsibilities and tasks, is more challenging than the judgment of superiors.

Specifically, team members must constantly evaluate their own work and help their peers evaluate their own. This will create a culture of intelligent individuals working together towards a common goal of continuous improvement.

This is a very different model from the Waterfall model, in which the goals of a handful of individuals during the initial phases of the development cycle are particularly important.

The implementation of the Kaizen model

The Kaizen model can be implemented in different ways, according to specific needs of the organization or project. It is possible to opt for a “day-to-day” approach.

In this case, the development team meets regularly to discuss a previously identified problem. Everyone expresses their ideas for solutions, and the best ones are selected to try to remedy the problem.

A Another approach is the “special event” approach.. This requires more planning, in order to execute an improvement within a few days. This enhancement must be implemented by the developers most closely related to the component where the enhancements are to be made, since they are best able to make the changes without adding new bugs or problems.

Team Kaizen or Individual Kaizen

Most often, the practices of the Kaizen model are adopted by a team as a whole. All members strive together towards continuous improvement.

However, there are a variant called “Teian Kazien”.. The Japanese term “Teian” can be translated as “proposal”. Thus, this variant consists of letting individual team members discover and propose improvements in the course of their daily activities.

The individual who proposes a change is not responsible for implementing it directly. It is up to the team to read and discuss its proposal and then implement it in the best possible way.

Process or sub-process

The techniques and practices of the Kaizen model are rarely applied directly to the development process as a whole. They are more often applied to “sub-processes”..

In the case of software development, this may include from the database or SSC or even individual methods. Thus, a suggested improvement should be applicable to one or more specific sub-processes.

For example, if a proposal aims to improve the reaction time of a blogging application, it should takes into account all sub-processes that will be impacted. Thus, all the sub-processes concerned can be modified accordingly.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Kaizen model

The Kaizen model offers many advantages similar to those of the Agile and LEAN models. First of all, it allows iterative development and incremental improvement.

Rather than having to plan for change, this model allows for rapid improvements to software. In the event of a problem, it is therefore possible to adapt the project appropriately.

The Kaizen model also allows continuous integration. Thanks to the centralization of all development work, all team members can analyze and discover new possibilities for improvement.

In addition, the fact that each individual team member is able to suggest improvements is highly motivating. Everyone feels important and useful to the software development cycle as a whole.

Conversely, the fact that proposals for improvements are discussed and debated by the entire team makes it possible to make collective decisions. This can be a real advantage.

However, the Kaizen model also has drawbacks. In case of bad implementation, it can be disadvantageous.

To be beneficial, this model requires open communication company-wide. However, for organisations familiar with the Waterfall methodology, it can be difficult to adopt this style of communication.

In addition, the Kazien also requires set aside the hierarchical structure of the organization. If developers are intimidated or frightened by their superiors, they may be reluctant to propose improvements.

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