Small Thoughts: Lean and Agile

December 2, 2014 — Posted by Al Shalloway

Lean is a very misunderstood term. While Lean includes a collection of knowledge about flow, Lean-management, Lean-culture and Lean-tools it is not any of these. First and foremost Lean is based on systems thinking which means practitioners take a holistic view of the company they are working in. I sometimes hear people say "we do Lean inside of Scrum." What they should be saying is "we use Lean tools inside of Scrum." There is a difference.

About 10 years ago I suggested that Scrum can be thought of as a partial implementation of Lean.  This is useful both to explain how Scrum works and to use Lean as guidance when it wasn't working.  However, Scrum isn't truly Lean in the sense that it isn't an holistic approach. You cannot do Lean inside of Scrum - you can only use Lean tools inside of Scrum.  In fact, we highly recommend using using the lean tools of managing work in process (WIP) and creating explicit workflow, amongst others. 

This is not semantics - it's systems thinking.  A Lean-thinker would not try to compose a bigger system out of pieces (a system is not its pieces).  We (Net Objectives) do Scrum within Lean.  That is, we take a holistic approach and then use Scrum at the team level. We found that a Lean approach is required at the multiple team level.  That is, we come from the business value perspective and look at all the teams as a whole instead of as individual teams trying to work together with Scrum-of-Scrums.

Lean-tools within the context of Scrum will work well.  Scrum within the context of Lean will work better.

 

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With over 40 years of experience, Alan is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, SAFe, Scrum and agile design.



        

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