The Definitive Guide to

Lean Practitioner in Software Development

The role of a lean practitioner in software development is to understand and implement lean principles to improve efficiencies, remove waste and enhance processes to achieve business objectives.

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In today’s constantly developing software environments, businesses that want to stay up-to-date and progress faster need to be able to continuously upgrade and adapt their systems to maximize operations and reduce costs.

This is where a lean practitioner comes in, but what is a lean practitioner?  A lean practitioner is an expert in lean software development; a set of principles and practices based on the Toyota Production System.

Product leadership and software developers looking to optimize new and existing processes efficiently will greatly benefit from the lean practitioner mindset.

What is a lean practitioner?

A lean practitioner is often considered the leader or go-to person to improve, optimize, enhance and evolve processes to achieve business objectives. Their work with lean software development is used to achieve company goals efficiently, cut costs and remove any waste from their systems and processes.

Lean practitioners are well-versed in the tools, methodologies, and Lean principles to problem solve efficiently and work towards continuous improvement.

Successful lean practitioners are focused on supporting the work of others for increased productivity and outlining improvement potential. Their knowledge of lean principles is used to benefit businesses across the scope of their software development systems and can be implemented regardless of industry, all of which make lean practitioners highly valuable.

Lean software development

Adapted from the Toyota Management System, lean software development offers a solid conceptual framework for supporting agile project management. It provides a set of principles and practices that help businesses improve new and existing software processes. A lean practitioner will work with both leadership and developers to achieve the following seven lean development principles:

  • Eliminate waste
  • Amplify learning
  • Decide as late as possible
  • Deliver as fast as possible
  • Empower the team
  • Build integrity in
  • Optimize the whole

Lean philosophy outlines waste as anything that does not add value to the company/customer – this includes abandoned coding, extra features, or other defects, for example. The above principles are then achieved using various tools and methods, such as Value Stream Management, which identifies waste through monitoring, controlling, and improving the value software delivers to a company throughout its entire lifecycle.


Lean practitioners will need a handful of skills to be successful in the role. They will need both lean and business development expertise covering the methodologies, tools, and techniques necessary to guide the lean philosophy. Lean software development requires knowledge of value stream management solutions such as DORA and Flow Metrics; which are used to measure the end-to-end flow of a software value stream. Once evaluated against business results, they offer important insights and expose weaknesses and bottlenecks to eliminate waste – one of lean’s development principles.

There are additional soft skills lean practitioners should be comfortable with to succeed in the role. Lean practitioners should have strong communication and facilitation skills. It’s important that they are able to listen to feedback and then implement that feedback objectively. They are a trusted advisor and leader so must be able to work alongside software developers, DevOps, and business leaders to achieve company goals.

What does a lean practitioner do?

A lean practitioner’s role is one that is heavily focused both on in-depth knowledge of lean software development solutions. On a day-to-day basis, lean practitioners will leverage appropriate lean methodologies to guide business improvement projects, creating value stream maps to analyze processes. Using various metrics to measure the performance of these value streams, lean practitioners can then identify which processes add value or not and can eliminate or adapt as necessary. 

Lean practitioners will support the organization or leadership team to implement these improvements. They may conduct Gemba Walks (a term also taken from the Toyota Management System) to walk other employees through detailed lean software development processes to create mutual understanding. 

Lean practitioners are the bridge between software improvement processes and leadership; developing current state and future state value stream maps, preparing action guides, and writing standard lean work processes for an organization to follow as it continues to improve and adapt.


How to become a lean practitioner?

Lean practitioners need certain training and certifications to prove to their organization that they understand and have the relevant knowledge to successfully complete lean projects. Lean practitioner certifications prove proficiency and are usually awarded following the completion of a course or lean practitioner exam.


Lean practitioner certifications can be achieved through courses run by various organizations. The most valuable of which include:

  • The Gemba Academy Lean Practitioner Course - an 8-month program that teaches applicants how to adopt Lean to better serve the customers and improve an organization’s operational performance.
  • Vative Academy Lean Practitioner Course - This course aims to give future lean practitioners the skills to contribute to continuous business improvement. However, individuals wanting to complete this course must have already passed their Lean Champion course. 
  • SSC Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt - This certification is achieved following a short exam and can be done on completion of the courses above.

On completion of all lean software development exams, lean practitioners will be awarded certificates that demonstrate their proficiency in the practice.  


Lean practitioners should be invested in their own growth. Various lean software development books have been produced on both Lean and Agile philosophies which can inspire both current and future lean practitioners. 

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Lean practitioner tools

To become a successful lean practitioner, individuals must adopt various tools and practices to guide the lean mindset. Tools lean practitioners must adopt include:

Value stream mapping

Value stream mapping provides lean practitioners with a visual overview of which work processes deliver value from the beginning to end. It is a tool that is used to clearly identify and eliminate waste with the goal of increasing efficiency and improving processes. 

Value stream management

Value Stream Management tools are employed to measure current software delivery performance. A value stream is identified as any activity required to deliver software to internal or external customers. Management tools evaluate, monitor, and improve value streams to remove wasteful processes, highlight bottlenecks, and increase efficiency. 

5S Workplace organization

The 5S’s of workplace organization is at the heart of Lean philosophy, and these are used by lean practitioners to achieve an organized and efficient workplace. 

  • Sort: Separate items and processes that are needed from those that are unnecessary. 
  • Set in Order: Those items and processes that are left should be sorted in the right place based on the frequency of use and how they are used. 
  • Shine: Create a regular routine that maintains and inspects the work for inefficiencies. 
  • Standardize: Identify which processes are high value, high volume, or high risk and implement which is the best practice for success.
  • Sustain: Perform the first four S’s regularly to create review points. Audit results and continuously improve processes. 

Kaizen (Continuous improvement)

The Japanese for “change for good,” kaizen refers to the culture of continuous improvement by taking small, frequent, and incremental steps. It is the philosophy of never being satisfied; of always seeking out better and more efficient ways to improve and grow. This is a key philosophy of the Lean mindset. 

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Combining both Lean management philosophy with leadership skills, lean practitioners are experts in guiding Lean software development to continuously upgrade and improve company processes. Using various tools and methodologies such as Value Stream Management, Flow Metrics, etc, lean practitioners can effectively highlight and remove waste, increase value and identify bottlenecks from company software processes. 

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Frequently asked questions on a lean practitioner

What is a lean practitioner?

A Lean Practitioner leverages Lean concepts, tools, and philosophies with the vital goal of evolving and improving company processes to remove waste and increase efficiency.

How to become a lean practitioner?

You can become a lean practitioner by taking the relevant courses and exams. Once you have completed one of these courses you will be able to successfully begin working with Lean principles to achieve the goals set by your company.

What does a lean practitioner do?

A lean practitioner has several important roles within software development. They will lead various business improvement projects and create value stream mapping to analyze processes for efficiency. They will use metrics to measure the performance of value streams to identify which processes add value and which can be eliminated. Lean practitioners also work with organizations and leadership teams to communicate updates, foster understanding, and implement feedback.

How to become lean certified?

You can become Lean certified by completing the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, which should be done once passing one of the many courses aimed to give future practitioners all the information they need to comfortably work with Lean tools and principles. The certification simply proves to an organization that you are able to successfully work with Lean software development.

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