A Tale of Two Systems: Lean and Agile Software Development for Business Leaders, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A Tale of Two Systems

Lean and Agile Software Development for Business Leaders, 1st Edition

By Michael K. Levine

Productivity Press

344 pages | 39 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2009-06-24
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This business parable reviews two different systems development projects. One project was an abject, expensive failure, while the other succeeded in creating a major new revenue stream, bringing in new customers. By reviewing the tales of these two systems, readers will develop a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the leadership and action steps required to reinvent a company’s procedures to get in step with the times.

CEO Evan Nogelmeyer discovers to his dismay that in today’s business world, technology is not just for technologists. But does he discover this soon enough and once he does, does he have the tools and the business savvy he needs to stave off disaster? Evan and his team are all well-intentioned, successful business leaders with advanced degrees and backgrounds in marketing and business. But, without technical backgrounds, do they have what it takes to manage the technology overhaul so critical to the very survival of their company and the future of their own careers?

A Tale of Two Systems: Lean and Agile Software Development for Business Leaders reviews two fictional systems development projects: Cremins United and Troubled Real Estate Information Management, both launched at the imaginary Cremins Corporation. Cremins is a venerable printing company that must transform itself to survive in the Internet age. One project proves to be an abject and expensive failure, while the other succeeds in creating a major new revenue stream and solving important customer needs. Contrasting the methods employed in a traditional, process-centric 'waterfall' approach, with a lean and agile-inspired approach, this book provides business leaders with a tangible understanding of why lean thinking is so well-suited to contemporary environments requiring flexibility, speed, and the input of specialized knowledge.

At the conclusion of the two tales, author Michael Levine articulates a series of conclusions and principles based on Lean Product Development, Agile, and his 25 years of experience in business systems development.

While the tales told and the companies and employees that inhabit them are pure fiction, the lessons to be learned are very real and very applicable in today’s highly competitive market, where victory goes time and time again to the lean and the agile.


A Tale of Two Systems takes us on an intriguing and very realistic journey through the development of two systems – one a spectacular success, and the other an equally spectacular failure. It exposes in detail why one system succeeds and the other fails. In the epilogue, Levine summarizes the lessons leaders should take away from this wonderful tale. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book; following the story brings a deep appreciation of its wisdom.

--Mary Poppendieck, author of Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash

Table of Contents

Prelude: January 2008

The First 6 Months: September 2005-February 2006

Kicking off Project #1—TRIM: The "Troubled Real Estate Information Management" Project

Kicking off Project #2: The Cremins United Project

Two Different Approaches to the Two Different Projects

Understanding Lean & Agile Development

The CU Project Team Will Follow "The Process"

The CU Project Imposes Technology Architecture from the Top

Setting Expectations for the CU Project: How Iron Is the Triangle?

Don’t Shoot the Messenger: The CU Project Team Meets with Management

Cutting CU Project Development Time—by a Year

Planning the TRIM Project

Planning and Managing TRIM’s One-Month Sprints

Status Update for Both Projects

The CU Project’s Buy vs. Build Decision

Drawing Boundaries and Tailoring Methods

The TRIM Project’s 1st Sprint Demo: A Bit behind Schedule, but Catching up

The CU Project Requirements Handoff: An Uneasy Transition

The 2nd 6 Months: March 2006-August 2006

The CU Project Leaders Visit the TRIM Team

Checking in on the CU Project’s Development: Green for Go, or Screaming Red?

A Status Check: TRIM’s OK, but CU May Be in Trouble

Year 2: September 2006-February 2007

A Dismal Reality Check for the CU Team

The TRIM System Goes Live; Managing Problems & Growth

The CU Project Is Finally Officially Code Complete

The CU Project Retrospective: Slipcharts and Some Towering Expertise (Too Late)

The Beginning of the End: The Last 6 Months of 2 Years of Work

18 Months In: Status Updates for Both Projects

The Decision to Go Live with the CU System

Final Lessons for Leaders

Epilogue: What We Learned from the TRIM and CU Projects

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
COMPUTERS / Information Technology