Is Lean a way to becoming Agile? A framework under Agile?

Last post 12:06 am September 4, 2019
by Thomas Owens
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03:12 pm August 29, 2019

In a recent discussion I was advised that Lean is a framework under Agile and that Lean helps in being Agile.

I am not quite sure if Lean is a framework and I am not sure which is right; to say Lean is a way to being Agile or Agile is a path to becoming Lean.

Could anyone help shed some light? If there are any reliable references, that also would help.

04:00 pm August 29, 2019

Hello Steve,

In my opinion, Lean is not exactly a framework but the collation of process improvement tools. If I can recall correctly, commonly agreed key goals of Lean are

  1. Reduction in cycle times.
  2. Improvement in throughput.
  3. Improvement in resource (or space in manufacturing) utilization.
  4. Reduction in WIP.
  5. Improvement in quality.
  6. Improvement in (worker) or human resource productivity.

However, the Lean does not have any specific structure to it (unless applied with Six Sigma, where statistical control and defect reduction becomes the binding framework). And, any tool that can address the criteria above can adopted. In that sense, it shows a level of agility, however I am not personally inclined to call it a framework.

I must also note that while we address this question, we must take account of the history of development of these terminologies and process improvement methodologies. The Deming Cycle, Creative Problem Solving evolved into DMAIC. DMAIC later got further specialised into Six Sigma. When it was noted that Six Sigma cannot address many organzational issues pertaining to product development Lean methods were coupled with Six Sigma which become Lean Six Sigma. I have heard many professionals using Lean and Six Sigma seperately and interchangeably, but I do not agree with that for the same reasons I stated above (as the represent two ends of the agility spectrum). Finally when software development became a main-stream in late 80's, there was a need to reinvent process improvement methodologies that can incorporate complex and quick changes in scope. Hence, the Scrum. 

I hope my answer will address some of the questions you may have. If you'd like to go more in depth I suggest browsing through "Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence" by Evans and Lindsay.

 

Thanks

 

Aditya   

   

05:11 pm August 29, 2019

I've had some mixed thoughts on this.

Today, I'd say that Lean and Agile Software Development are "at the same level". That is, both are simply a set of values and principles that drive a number of different methodologies, methods, processes, and practices.

There's very little on the side of how in both Lean (considering The Toyota Way, not one of the numerous spin-offs tailored for various industries or domains - some of these do a better job than others sticking to values and principles over practices) and Agile Software Development (considering the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and its principles, not any specific methods or frameworks). Even if you consider Lean Software Development, there isn't that much in the way of how (although in their books, the Poppendiecks have given suggestions and ideas for following the values and principles in the context of software development).

I have seen people who group Lean Software Development under the "Agile" umbrella. But also under this umbrella are Scrum, Extreme Programming, DSDM, Crystal, and more. These other things that are under the Agile Software Development umbrella are methods and frameworks that start to get into the how, while Lean Software Development really doesn't. Lean Software Development was formed around the same time period as these other methodologies, but I'm not certain how familiar the authors of the Manifesto were with the work of the Poppendiecks, but I can definitely see a lot of similarities between the Manifesto and Lean (Toyota and/or Lean Software Development) thinking.

05:01 am September 3, 2019

So what's the bottom line, Lean is a framework under the Agile umbrella or, its not a framework, and it cannot be considered under the Agile umbrella? That's the clarity I am seeking.

12:16 pm September 3, 2019

So what's the bottom line, Lean is a framework under the Agile umbrella or, its not a framework, and it cannot be considered under the Agile umbrella? That's the clarity I am seeking.

Lean is definitely not a framework. Scrum is an example of a framework - it provides structure. Lean doesn't provide any structure since it's just a collection of values and principles without any practices.

Whether or not Lean is under the Agile umbrella or not is up for discussion. I'd say that no, it isn't. Many of the frameworks and methods under the Agile umbrella may also fall under the Lean umbrella, I'm not yet convinced that it's a requirement for a Lean method to fully fit under Agile or an Agile method to fully fit under Lean.

01:31 pm September 3, 2019

I am not sure which is right; to say Lean is a way to being Agile or Agile is a path to becoming Lean.

Try reviewing the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto in terms of how they potentially address the 7 lean wastes

02:13 pm September 3, 2019

Try reviewing the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto in terms of how they potentially address the 7 lean wastes

The 7 lean wastes are only 1 of the 14 underlying principles.

Consider the history of Lean. The earliest Lean was Lean Manufacturing, which was based on the Toyota Production System (but rather distorted in some respects as it was brought from Japan to the United States and Europe). The Toyota Production System was rooted in The Toyota Way, which outlines values and philosophies. The current implementation of the Toyota Production System changes over time to account for things that have been learned or new technologies and techniques that have been introduced, but The Toyota Way and it's values and principles haven't changed nearly as much.

If you're looking for analogies, Toyota Production System is closer to Scrum (although that's not a perfect analogy, either). The Toyota Way is closer to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Lean Software Development (as it's defined and written about by the Poppendiecks) is a set of values, much closer to The Toyota Way than the Toyota Production System.

06:58 pm September 3, 2019

If you're looking for analogies, Toyota Production System is closer to Scrum (although that's not a perfect analogy, either). The Toyota Way is closer to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Lean Software Development (as it's defined and written about by the Poppendiecks) is a set of values, much closer to The Toyota Way than the Toyota Production System.

 

@steve @thomas -- Kanban would be an example of a framework which supports both Lean Software Development AND Agile Software Development as the practices stem from achieving the outcomes that both Lean and Agile advocate.... And so is Scrum.

Circling back from what I'm reading -- I think what would define better clarity is defining which is really a "philosophy" (set of principles or values -- way of "being") vs a "framework" (structured set of practices to achieve a certain outcome or enact a set of principles & values).

Lean & Agile, in my mind, is not naturally "umbrella-d" (eg. one can fit under the other) together as both are mutually exclusive philosophies and any framework that you find valuable could achieve the outcomes that these philosophies seek to obtain. (it's not an either/or thing -- it could be none or both)

Going through the PSK training course would help mesh both philosophies using a single framework.

 

 

 

 

12:06 am September 4, 2019

Kanban would be an example of a framework which supports both Lean Software Development AND Agile Software Development as the practices stem from achieving the outcomes that both Lean and Agile advocate.... And so is Scrum.

Kanban is not a good example.

You have the Kanban Method that David Anderson has written about, Professional Scrum with Kanban that Scrum.org has written a guide and training course and certification exam for, and kanban that is a signaling tool for pull-based or just-in-time manufacturing.

The Kanban Method is on the border of a methodology and a framework. Professional Scrum with Kanban is definitely a framework. Both of these define practices (in addition to some principles and values). The fact that they define some practices makes them at least a framework, if not a methodology.

Kanban in its original sense is a practice. It's simply a way to visualize stock. It's one particular way to issue requests for new material or to signal that there is sufficient stock and to stop production. It has some specific rules around it. There is no philosophy in this kanban - it's a set of steps that can be implemented in support of some broader philosophy or values