The ways that people define different software development methods like agile and lean are just as numerous as the ways these methods are actually implemented. Even if singular definitions could be agreed on, combining the terms to form lean agile creates an exponentially larger world of possible visions.
As Alan Shalloway, CEO of Net Objectives, points out in the interview below, both concepts are ultimately designed to “add value to business.” One unarguable difference between the two is that agile is, and was designed to be, implemented at the development team level; lean takes a look at a much larger, sweeping picture.
Shalloway explains to Agile TV’s Ade Shokoya that lean creates synergy and optimization not just company-wide, but in the way that entire company does business together. The result is cohesion between the teams agile helped create, managers and directors, the business and sales staff, and ultimately the shareholders as well.
In a classic chicken or the egg comparison, if a company weren’t practicing lean or agile, it becomes a little cloudy when trying to decide where to begin. Shalloway compares a development team to a car’s engine. While an engine is absolutely vital to the car's being road-ready, having only a well-oiled and powerful engine and none of the other numerous key pieces of a vehicle will get you nowhere.
At the same time, begin with lean, and the revelation of the need for an agile development team will be made immediately. The fact is that agile is merely a single key component to many lean strategies, and one without the other greatly minimizes each of its potential benefits.
Agile vs. lean is essentially a false debate as neither gets in the way of the other; each has the chance to greatly enhance the other.
While agile’s origins focused on the team level, its successes have encouraged people to look into expanding its reach to the enterprise as a whole. What they may or may not know is that doing this is essentially a lean process and not limited to just being more agile.
Enterprise agility and lean agile are arguably so similar that maybe, just maybe, we can agree that their definitions are the same—even if we are never able to define each phrase on its own.
What’s your take? How do you define these terms, or do you even try?
A resident copywriter and editor for TechWell, SQE, and StickyMinds.com, Noel Wurst has written for numerous blogs, websites, newspapers, and magazines. Noel has presented educational conference sessions for those looking to become better writers. In his spare time, he can be found spending time with his wife and two sons—and tending to the food on his Big Green Egg. Noel eagerly looks forward to technology's future, while refusing to let go of the relics of the past.