Agile vs. Lean vs. Lean Agile

September 23, 2014 Tami Reiss

Agile and Lean have been around for decades. Their marriage for software development has a long history as well. Yet, there is still a lot of confusion around what the difference is between them and how they work together.

I’m by no means the world’s expert on either topic, but I’m often part of a conversation with clients or PM friends where the confusion around the terms is discussed. It came up three times this week, so I figured it was time for a post about my views on what each term means.

AGILE: A development process that emphasizes short iterations and focuses on delivery of functional software.

Flavors of Agile may include continuous deployment/integration, test driven development, pairing, scrums, sprints, or many other facets that are too long to list here.

LEAN: A process framework where there is an attempt to minimize risk and waste while maximizing customer value.

It is often achieved through a tight feedback cycle with minimal investment between loops. Lean protocols have been employed to optimize manufacturing, construction, and pretty much any business process you can think of.

LEAN AGILE: The marriage of Agile development iterations with Lean validation practices.

Here’s how this works:

  • Establish a hypothesis
  • Figure out the smallest thing needed to test it
  • Build that thing in an iterative way
  • Always be working towards functional software
  • Repeat for each feature, epic, and product

As mentioned earlier, I’m not an expert on this, and would love people’s feedback on how what I’ve written should be adjusted.

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