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Archive for June, 2009

How is Lean Different from Agile?

As we all know, one of the precursors to agile development was the Lean Manufacturing movement, typified by the work of Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda in the 1980s. So, clearly, they’re related. But InfoWorld’s Martin Heller has just posted a blog that explains how, when it boils down to philosophy, agile and Lean go their separate ways. Yes, both agile and Lean “strive to improve software quality, reduce waste, increase developer productivity, accept changes to requirements, and prize meeting the customer’s real needs.”

So what’s the difference between the two? According to Heller, the difference exists in relation to the business. As he sees it, agile is too preoccupied with software development processes, whereas Lean attempts to address every level of production, including the supply chain.

Now, this got me thinking. As I understand it, agile—and Scrum, especially—are uniquely synchronized with the business. Prioritization decisions are driven by what Business Value a given Product Backlog Item will generate. And iterative, incremental development provides a natural point of contact with the customer at the end of every sprint. Moreover, is agile development really that specific to software development? Aren’t its principles actually derived from new product development? And couldn’t they just as easily be utilized to manage complex projects in any industry? I’ve probably made my position clear through all those questions, but I’m more interested to hear what you think about this. Does Heller’s assessment of Lean and agile square with your own understanding of them?

Lean Reading

In my posts on this blog, one common forerunner to agile development practices that I have repeatedly mentioned is lean manufacturing. Also known as “flexible mass production,” lean practices were popularized by Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda in the early 1980s. Key to this practice is the belief that any resource used that does not contribute toward production is wasteful and therefore must be eliminated to improve processes. Thus, the entire process can be summarized as attempting to do more with less. But chances are you know that much already. If you’re looking to dive deeper into Lean, InfoQ has posted a list of 24 books on the topic recommended by agile users (and even more are trickling into the comments section). You can take a look here: http://www.infoq.com/news/2009/05/lean-books