Monday, June 29, 2009

Agile or Lean, which is the bastard child?

I'm kind of tired of these debates since they don't really do more than the Mac vs. PC debates. Who cares which came first? Does coming first confirm value? superiority? inferiority?

Anyway... Mike Alber posted to the Agile Alliance LinkedIn group the following question:
Agile and Lean Software Development - an Oxymoron?
What do you believe - is Agile is an instance of Lean, or together are they are an oxymoron?
My response:
They are both journeys towards the same end goal with slightly different paths. To me it is like asking if driving from Florida to Maine on I-95 vs. Rt 1 is the same or different.

Yes they are different. But they are both going in parallel and towards the same ultimate goal. They even cross and overlap each other quite a bit. It also seems their start was about the same also.
I really like what Matthew Chave had to say:
1 of 2 ways to go here.....

1. Agile - throw your processes away and start again....take Scrum and XP and implement them....

2. Lean - use lean techniques to remove the waste from your process......

What happens if you do 1......well you probably fail as its too much to do in 1 go......

What happens if you do gradually improve your process and in the pursuit of "perfection" gradually refine your heavy-wright process to become something that looks a lot like Agile......

Moral of the story (and to quote Martin Fowler on the topic):

"You can't really talk about them being alternatives, if you are doing agile you are doing lean and vice-versa. Agile was always meant as a very broad concept, a core set of values and principles that was shared by processes that look superficially different. You don't do agile or lean you do agile and lean. The only question is how explicitly you use ideas that draw directly from lean manufacturing."

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