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Becoming Lean and Agile

27 July 2017

Shane Billings

The Agile philosophy can be connected to the Lean manufacturing principles that began in the 1940s in Japan. Put simply, Agile is the child of Lean parentage. No Agile practice would be complete without applying Lean philosophy. It is common to apply a principle in the name of Agile when, in truth, it has its origins in Lean thinking. To the experienced Agile practitioner, Agile and Lean should blend together to become Agile/Lean development.

Understandably, most people are less interested in the origin of the principle and more interested in its application. After all, those principles make sense, and they work. Determining the history may be interesting, but it won’t change the actual practice.

Even the best Agilists don’t always refer back to the origins of their practice. They know the history, to be sure, but tend not to bore their audiences with the details of origin. Consequently, the connection between Agile and Lean is often lost in translation between zealot and practitioner. In many ways, Agile is an amalgam of the most up-to-date thinking about human nature as applied to development systems. It was not so much an invention as it was a gathering of best philosophies and practices in a single place — Lean being one of the gathered ideologies.

Yet there is value in exploring the relationship between Agile and Lean. It helps us put things into a larger picture. Sometimes it helps us envision how the principles are applied in different spaces. With that greater understanding, we can begin to piece together the smaller pieces into a greater tapestry that best fits our teams and programs. The end result is one of best practice through understanding and vision rather than blind adherence to a label.

Best practices need no history or label to be effective. An Agilist’s job is not to invent all the best ideas; instead, the job is to recognize and apply them.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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