Lean, IT, and Agile


Last time, in exploring Lean & IT, I posed the question, “Are you going to ‘do’ Lean, or are you going to ‘BE’ Lean?”   In other words, are you simply going to use the tools of Lean, or are you going to embrace the true belief in continuous improvement and make it a part of your organization’s culture?  The latter is much harder and takes much longer to achieve. 

Over the past week, thinking about the relationship between Lean and Agile, I posed a question on Twitter: Is Agile software development Lean, or is Lean part of Agile software development?  To expand on this, Gerry Kirk (@gerrykirk) created a poll. As of February 1, the top three responses were:

1) Lean complements Agile (42%)

2) Agile is part of Lean (21%)

3) I don’t really care, I use Lean as part of my Agile work (17%)

Looking at the responses, #3 can be grouped with #1, so that nearly 60% of respondents feel Agile and Lean complement each other.  This goes to the point of viewing Lean as a collection of tools, and not a mindset or organizational culture.  It is also important information for an IT organization that may already be using Agile, and wishes to move into Lean.  Understanding how your organization views or understands Lean before embracing it will allow you to develop a strategy for truly beginning the Lean journey.

As IT organizations begin to embrace Lean Thinking, and it’s associated methods and tools, they need to remember it is a total organizational journey, and not just doing some Value Stream Maps or A3s.  It does not start and stop with the IT department.  Yes, the tools are important, and you can’t get there without using the tools, but it is an organizational journey, not a quick trip to the supermarket.

By the way, I was in the 21% that feels Agile is a part of Lean. 

Glenn Whitfield