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Lean Vs Agile: A Definitive Comparison

So, you are looking for a new project management strategy for your team, well look no further! Here is a comprehensive guide that compares lean vs agile so that you don’t have to search around.

Lean and Agile are both strategies for software development to achieve the project goal. The two strategies work in different ways and can even be used together in a hybrid model to improve workflow for teams of developers. But it does not mean that you can always use them at the same time. That is why we need to compare lean vs agile and understand the differences.

If you are curious about the differences between lean and agile, you should look further with us.

lean vs agile

What is Lean?

Lean is a methodology that began in the manufacturing industry but has since become widely used by software developers. As a concept, it is more focused on improving the process of software delivery than improving the actual product itself. When implementing Lean into a workflow, the emphasis is placed on improving the process itself by encouraging the process to be repetitive and predictable after removing unnecessary steps and waste.

In this way, the software development machine works as cogs in a clock. They each have their own predictable role and are expected to turn in such a way that keeps the overall process moving.

By improving the overall process of their work, Lean development teams aim to build a better product by having a better process. When successfully improving the product and process, this is sure to result in an overall faster production time for their software delivery.

lean vs agile: Lean

Advantages of Lean

Increase efficiency

Lean helps remove waste and unnecessary steps which can help improve your working efficiency. You and your team members do not need to waste the time and money on the steps that do not work for project completion.    

Lower cost by eliminating wasted time

With improved processes for completing software development projects, your team will be able to take on a higher (but more streamlined) workload and turn more profit for the same amount of time that they used to spend on their work.

More engaged employees

To put it simply, employees hate redundant or unintuitive processes just as much as project managers and owners do. By improving on the processes that your employees have probably been complaining about when they clock out, you are not only making their job easier, but you are increasing their overall satisfaction with their job.

Principles of Lean

There are five principles of Lean:

Identify Value

This principle is about defining the value that your customer is willing to pay for your product. This means how long they are willing to wait for it, how much the product they want, and how much they are willing to pay.

Map the Value Stream

The “mapping the value stream” refers to notating all of the steps that it takes to get from nothing to something. In the case of software development, what steps are there to create the software and deliver it to the customer? This step involves breaking down the steps and deciding which ones can be eliminated for being unnecessary or can be replaced for being inefficient.

Create Flow

This step is to ensure that the remaining steps in your process flow smoothly. Does the process suffer without a step that was removed? If so, it may be needed to be added back in and may not have been wasteful after all.

Establish Pull

This principle of Lean refers to the point in time where your processes are already improved. “Pull” refers to pulling customers in to request more of your product because your products are so much easier to be created and sent off to their buyers.

Pursuit of Perfection

The final principle of Lean is to continue pursuing perfection with the other four Lean principles. Continuing to avoid redundancy and eliminating further waste will lead to the long-term success of your products and your team.

What is Agile?

Agile, on the other hand, is a methodology for software developers to create better software products which will then increase the speed that products are delivered. Through the development of better products, the process of creating those products is expected to naturally improve. Then, the results of these efforts will return a faster and more efficient software development team.

This method of project management can be thought of as investing your time upfront for future growth. By spending more time on creating the framework of the software, these developers will be able to readily replicate their work for future scenarios.

A good analogy for this is the creation of a template for a legal document. If an attorney files the same document with different case names and case numbers every single day, they are wasting a significant amount of time by coming up with the legal language from the scratch day in and day out. Instead, investing the time into creating a good, solid template will help this attorney save an unfathomable amount of time.

Advantages of Agile

Creating a superior product

Creating a better product as a software development team is ideal for employees, customers, and businesses alike. The client is especially pleased during this process because they are more involved in an Agile workflow.

Boosting team morale

Taking pride in one’s work is essential for morale in the workplace. By providing a better product to your customers, your employee satisfaction will also rise accordingly. Happy and satisfied employees are excellent for a successful business.

Reducing risk

Part of this process is that software developers are more regularly checking project completion and can look out for obstacles heading their way. By implementing the Agile methodology, the risks of the everyday business are reduced.

Principles of Agile?

There are twelve principles of Agile:

Satisfy customers through early and continuous delivery.

This is the highest valued principle of Agile. The goal is to spend the least amount of time possible between the idea and the product delivery in order to satisfy the customer.

Welcome changing requirements.

For Agile development, “the customer is always right”. If there are last-minute requests, accommodate them and please your customer.

Deliver working software frequently.

Break down the work into smaller bite-sized pieces and release them bit by bit. This is called “sprints” in Agile, where you finish small chunks of software and release them.

Businesspeople and developers work together.

Gone are the days of developer-only meetings or squashing all of the tech team into an awkward corner of the office. Interpersonal connections between other teams and the development team are crucial to Agile success.

Create motivated teams.

Agile will not work with an unmotivated team. Consider what changes you need to make to motivate your development team. Does your team have upgraded technology? Are they being taken care of? Make improvements to the work lives of your employees to motivate them.

Use face-to-face conversation.

This methodology mandates face-to-face conversation. While messaging each other over Slack or Outlook is still allowed, implementing daily standup meetings is a huge component of Agile. This is so that your team feels more like a team. You may think these meetings are a waste of time, but they help to motivate your team.

Creating software that works is how you measure progress.

Pushing products out is more important than creating documentation in this methodology. As well, products that work should be the primary focus rather than creating flawless products.

Focus on sustainability.

Ensure that you are not overworking your team. Each member of the team must agree to the deadlines and expectations before each Agile sprint.

Attention to technical excellence and design.

Ensure that your team is paying attention to keeping their products neat and tidy so that there are no technical messes in the future.

Keep it simple.

Don’t overcomplicate your products. The Agile principles dictate that finishing the tasks that have the most impact is more important than finishing all of the tasks.

Teams should be self-organizing.

Teams should be given the opportunity to organize themselves and choose their own tasks and roles within the team for Agile sprints. This creates a more hands-off management style which gives your team confidence.

Experiment with the process and check in on the process.

After each sprint, your software development team should be checking in on their processes and work habits to ask themself what can be improved and what redundancies can be eliminated.

Agile Vs Lean: Similarities

There are a few similarities when we look at Lean vs Agile:

End goal

Both of these methodologies contain the end goal of a better product and a better process.

Focus on the happiness of the developers

Lean and Agile both encourage you to take care of your employees and ensure that they are motivated by addressing their needs.

Eliminate redundancies

Bad processes and bad products are likely due to time waste and lack of focus. These methodologies focus on eliminating these two issues from your software development.

Lean Methodology Vs Agile: Differences

Essentially, the primary difference between Agile and Lean here is that one starts where the other ends. That is to say that while Agile project management improves the product first and then the process increases in speed and quality through practice, Lean project management starts by improving the process, and then by virtue of having a better process, they can create a better product.

When to Use Lean or Agile

When deciding if you should use Lean vs Agile, you should first take a look at the type of team that you have. If your team is more on the relaxed side and consistently puts out good products, then Lean could be a great choice for you. On the other hand, if your customers are complaining that they give you an idea and they don’t receive their projects back for a significant amount of time, implementing Agile could help solve this customer service problem with its “sprints” approach. Take a look at the existing team and existing customer base that you have to select which project management methodology is best for your business.

Tools for Lean and Agile Methodology

There are countless tools that may help you to implement Lean and Agile methodologies into your workflow, but here are five potential options for you:

1. Kanban/Task Boards

Visualizing workflow will be a helpful addition to implementing either methodology and will keep your team more organized.

2. Personas

Creating fictional characters that match up to your customers can help to understand the customer and their needs. This can be a fun exercise, especially for Agile teams.

3. The Daily Standup Meeting

Mentioned above in the Agile section is this huge morale booster. Schedule a quick 15–20-minute meeting first thing in the morning to allow developers to give updates on their projects and their lives to increase team functionality and team bonding.

4. T-Shirt Sizing

Applying standard t-shirt sizes to the tasks your team needs to complete is an easy way to help your team delegate tasks into (XS, S, M, L, XL).

5.  The 5S Approach

These steps are for organizing the physical work area and is a great tool for Lean development teams (and any workplace). Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain – these tips will help your employees keep their workplace clean.

Final Words

When comparing Lean vs Agile, it is important to recognize that one of these methodologies may not work very well for your software development team or your clients. Software development is a huge industry, meaning there are many different types of teams and products that they push out. Both methods have advantages and principles that are proven to help improve client relationships and employee satisfaction.

We hope that you found this detailed guide helpful in deciding whether or not one of these methods will work best for your team.

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