Agile & Lean

It’s a known fact, that agility is rooted in Lean. Unfortunately Lean principles are only present implicitly in the methodology, their original form is not apparent. This can be one of the main reasons why we often have the impression during an agile transformation that Lean is not receiving enough focus and emphasis.

The term “Lean” usually comes up in the following situations:

• a team realizes that Scrum is not the most fitting methodology for their purposes, so they switch to Kanban (“Lean Kanban”);

• the need arises to spread agility from IT to other parts of the organization (“Lean Software Development”, such as: value stream mapping, breaking silos);

• introduction of a scaling methodology using Lean techniques (i.e. SAFe);

• independently of IT, for example when a bank intends to optimize their processes.

Obviously all of the situations above can provide value. However even more value can be derived from the methodology if Lean principles are made explicit from the beginning and are used consciously. The main idea of Lean is to provide and deliver maximum value to the customers of the organization while not only reducing waste to a minimum but also building and maintaining a culture of a self-learning and self-development.

Value creation is present in the very first principle of the Agile Manifesto:

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software”.

Self development appears in the last principle:

“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly”.

Reducing waste is not emphasized. However, Scrum – if implemented correctly – is very capable of avoiding the biggest potential waste of product development, that is creating a product for which there is no need. This goal is ensured by continuous delivery and feedback loops.

However, all of these principles can be strengthened further by increasing consciousness through the introduction of Lean techniques. Therefore our advice is that if you are considering an agile transformation or your organisation is already agile, always keep Lean principles and techniques in mind as well.