Will This Economy Finally Push the Toyota Way Into Software Development?

This summer, I worked under marketing thought-leader Seth Godin. I’ll never forget his quote about innovation: “Creativity thrives under constraints.”

Last spring, I spent a week shadowing one of the world’s top lean manufacturing experts–a Japanese sensei who had worked under Taiichi Ohno. The lean manufacturing movement began when the Japanese realized they couldn’t directly compete with Detroit. So they innovated the car manufacturing process. Their success is evident.

Gradually, concepts from the Toyota Way permeated all manufacturing industries. But only now is it starting to hit mainstream knowledge management process–like software development. Wikipedia calls it “Agile Software Development.”

Certainly, moving to Agile isn’t pain free–there is risk involved–but companies that take the risk consistently report strong results, including those listed on the banner above. (Expect it to be flavor of the week if you apply it like the flavor of the week.)

On Friday, I interviewed Ryan Martens, CTO & founder of Rally Software, about agile development. (Rally offers Agile lifecycle management products and is a key player in the online Agile development community.)

Ryan told me that approximately 30-40% of ISV’s have begin experimenting with Agile practices, but it’s only penetrated 10-15% of major enterprises. Enterprises typically use success metrics oriented towards cost, rather than time-to-market.

If you want to experiment, Rally recently created an ROI calculator based on previous client work. Some of it feels like smooth marketing, but there’s also a few gems about the radically different paradigms in Agile development.

I wonder.
If Seth’s quote implies Agile adoption rates will skyrocket in the face of a tanking economy.