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The Blending Philosophies of Lean and Agile

Some management or governance philosophies should not be mixed. Because the resulting mix will be a blurry amalgam and the unique flavor of the ingredients will get lost, as well as their benefits. In general, not only the flavor and the envisioned benefits get lost, the total ‘product’ may be well less effective than the sum would suggest.

Lean is a management or organizational model that thrives on a typical mindset, with powerful but distinct fundaments, principles and thinking. Does the assumption that such strategies are best not mixed however imply that only a ‘clean’ implementation of Lean will deliver good results? Should we conclude that there are no combinations imaginable?

I believe that Agile thinking, principles and methods are more than just not at odds with Lean. I see not only much common ground to Lean and Agile, I am even convinced that the combination of Lean management principles with Agile product development thinking, as a total outcome, will result in an even more powerful mix. I believe that Lean and Agile are truly blending philosophies.

In this paper I highlight some major aspects of the distinct views of Lean and Agile, and indicate the similar grounds to them. But I have also included the Scrum perspective to Agile to demonstrate how the tangible, yet open framework of Scrum aligns and blends the underlying thinking of Agile and Lean. Because Lean and Scrum are similar houses, only different materials.

Gunther Verheyen
Professional Scrum Trainer for Scrum.org Agile/Scrum Leader at Capgemini