From the outside, it would appear that agile is completely incompatible with Lean Six Sigma. While both agile and Lean Six Sigma look at cutting wastes from processes, agile is rooted in information technology and Lean Six Sigma stems back to manufacturing. Can the two concepts coexist? Can they form a symbiotic relationship and make agile even leaner?
To explore this question, we first need to take a short look at Six Sigma, since it is the predecessor of Lean Six Sigma. Making agile and Six Sigma work together is much harder than agile – ITIL integration and agile – CMMi integration, but it can be done. The following video and presentation from an employee of General Electric, a company that has embraced Six Sigma wholeheartedly, have led me to conclude that in order to adopt both Six Sigma and agile, one has to be willing to broaden his perspective and think on a different level.
Does this broadening of one’s perspectives and thinking have to occur with the integration of agile and Lean Six Sigma? Samuli Heljio takes a deep dive into this very topic and concludes that agile is more suited to complex work while Lean Six Sigma is more usable in “simple and complicated domains.” In his blog he emphasizes that most agile practitioners would not be willing to take the time necessary to implement the principles of Lean Six Sigma.
However, Joe Goss disagrees with this assessment as he compares agile and Lean Six Sigma in side-by-side tables on TechRepublic’s website. In his conclusion Joe states that agile is mainly focused on the software development process, and if Lean Six Sigma already exists at your workplace, it would help your attempt to bring agile into your organization. I think this statement is very important because I don’t think it would work the other way. If an organization is agile, would it be easier to adopt Lean Six Sigma principles?
Arlen Bankston's presentation on lithespeed.com expands on the concepts discussed by Samuli and Joe, and shows us how the two methodologies can be combined. His slides show how a combined agile and Lean Six Sigma marriage works.
Have you tried to use Lean Six Sigma in your agile efforts? What were the results?
Joe Townsend has been in the configuration management field for twelve years. He has worked for CNA Life Insurance, RCA, Boeing, UPS, and in state government. Joe has primarily worked with Serena tools, including PVCS Version Manager, Tracker, TeamTrack (Mashups), and Dimensions. He is an administrator for WebFocus and supports Eclipse users.