Lean and Agility: Different Yet Complementary

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When exploring project management concepts, lean and agile strategies often come hand-in-hand. Both are related to some extent. Each explores logistics of the product development process, promoting collaboration, evaluating the parallels between value and productivity, as well as coping with the chaos that comes with the process. While lean and agile concepts are complementary to each other and are both needed to ensure development and implementation are as seamless as possible, they have different focal points.

Process vs. People

Lean focuses a lot on the process and how valuable it is, both in terms of development and execution. It looks at eliminating waste. Time wasting, money wasting, waste of production value, all sorts of waste. It is used to limit work queues that take place when a product or feature is being created, so that work doesn’t pile up on you. It helps you to understand the cost of delay, i.e., how much revenue you lose out on for every day or week that said product or feature has yet to hit the market.

Furthermore, lean was developed to help you understand a process by experiencing it and getting a first-hand look, so you can manage it successfully. With lean, the process should deliver the most value, meaning that any step or requirement that does not add value to it in any way must be eliminated. This concept uses a heuristic approach, a rule of thumb that reduces excess movement, gold plating, and other time-consuming elements.

Agile, meanwhile, focuses on the people tasked with the process and the uncertainty that they face during each step. It analyzes interactions between people and promotes the involving of end users, making communication more direct to reduce process time. Instead of using detailed requirements and specifications to reduce uncertainty, agile allows for customers to provide feedback to your team on a predictable timeline. It foresees what you can’t in some respects, allowing for more defined roles among team members and increases collaboration and planning.

Different Ways of Connecting

Agile techniques suggest an array of practices that increase stability and quality during the creation and development phase. As mentioned, agile concepts create quicker feedback streams, enabling the users supplying requirements and technologists responsible for providing solutions to communicate in a more effective manner.

However, while agile focuses on team building, lean concepts are more elaborate regarding how work is divided, breaking work up into a series of value streams triggered by demand signals. It breaks down how much value is attached to each part of the process, removing any potential hold-ups while connecting its most vital parts.

Agile connects products, services and requirements through experience, helping each to be refined so the process can be smoother. It is more self-adaptive while lean allows the process to adapt to change through cutting potential barriers.

Why Are Lean and Agile Complementary?

Both concepts limit work and process, inviting you to measure how much value is delivered instead of how much work is done. They promote quality over quantity, allowing for better communication and learning, continuous improvement, and empowering people.

Both help you deal with ever-changing constraints and environmental factors that could hinder deliverables. Lean does focus mainly on the process, but like agile, it empowers the people who are a part of it. Putting value to the process and reducing queue time allows for fluency in communication, more directness in dealing with an issue and making creative development more desirable.

Lean-agile mindsets establish continuous workflows supporting incremental value delivery based on feedback and adjustment. This involves lots of visualization, limits Work in Process and reduces batch sizes. These mindsets are also driven by a constant sense of competitive danger, always striving to be two steps ahead. As much information as possible is considered, causes of inefficiencies are established, and key milestones are identified so that standards are met, if not raised.

They are very much different in terms of their roots, but lean and agile concepts both stem from premises of improving workflow, communication, and delivery. The language of each concept is similar in a lot of ways, making them easy to blend and interchange.  The results are superior when both are employed.

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