Agile, Lean, Two-Face, Agile Does Not Scale

Lean trumps Agile

Agile, Two Face, Lean, management leadership, Agile Does Not Scale
“Heads, you change; tails, I stay the same. Looks like some lean odds.” Two-Face

Transformation failure is on leadership. Change principles live or die on leadership connecting vision to value. Agile does not scale without management focus on waste. Agile development requires Lean management mindset for end-to-end customer value. Lean trumps Agile, every time.

Value and waste are the opposite sides of the coin. Values tie Lean strategy to Agile delivery. Agile values and principles are Lean:

  • Lean focus is customer with an end-to-end value stream to the customer
  • Agile focus is customer with timely deliverable to the customer

Lean management principles uncover how the whole system they define and deliver to customers, value customers want. Lean mindsets define values and principles at the top of the house and enable the Agile mindset in practice.

Agile and Lean Link

Improve everything the organization does for customer Deliver early customer value, adapt to change
Eliminate delay to deliver customer value; reduce waste/wait Make design and development process flexible; optimize flow
Manufacturing now expanded to any industry Software development now expanded to Marketing, HR, and any design
Action loop: Plan-Do-Check-Act; build-measure-learn; relentless improvement Action loop: inspect and adapt; product backlog; refinement; product demo – potentially shippable result
Method for demonstrating progress: validate learning, minimum viable product Method for demonstrating progress: validate learning, definition of ‘done’
Frameworks: Kanban, Value Stream, Kaizen, Improvement Kata, Gemba … Frameworks: Scrum, eXtreme Programming, Behavior Driven Development, Kanban …
Toolkit: hypotheses, split (A/B) tests, customer interviews, value stream map, 5 Why’s Toolkit: iterations, planning boards, product backlog, test-first design, user story

Lean aligns, Agile designs.

Mindset supports values. I know no executive that understands servant leadership, self-organizing team, sprint backlog, or retrospective practices? Try to explain any of these principle-driven practices to them and their eyes roll back in their head.

However, shift the discussion to the Lean on waste, flow, throughput, rapid prototype, or plan-do-check-act and Agile in practice is more clear. Agile efforts to create self organizing teams or retrospectives are Lean principles, in different clothing.

For enterprise acceleration, Agile is Lean. [Related: whole-system change through Appreciative Inquiry]

Validate Value

What to build:

  • Lean management principles accelerate the entire organization focus on end-to-end customer value
  • Lean is not a method, not a practice, but is a set of values and principles to guide a mindset

How to build:

  • Agile provides design team principles to deliver fast, empirical value
  • Agile is not a method, not a practice, but is a set of values and principles to guide mindset

Often leaders refuse coaching, refuse training, and refuse many of the expectations they expect of others. When this happens backlogs remain pet projects or tenuous realities, not customer driven. Constant priority creates switching cost. Nothing to validate with customers except timely disappointment.

Without Lean management, tyranny remains the approach to Agile teams. Teams are challenged to deliver working increments. That’s Agile in name only, not in practice, and certainly, not in behavior.

Leadership creates a call for organization Agility, then demands others change. They don’t have to. That is a two-faced approach.

Lean and Agile validate learning.

Whether prototype or rapid response, the customer is central to validate, shift, pivot, or abandon – and I am only talking about a paying customer, there is no internal customer, only a paying customer.

There is no change when there is no learning.

Agile Does Not Scale

Q: How do I scale Agile?

A: You can not. But you can eliminate waste when you identify minimum viable bureaucracy (MVB).

Any consultant, contractor, company, or advisor that fails to link Agile and Lean, fails to understand. When someone speaks of Agile, ask:

  • How do Agile and Lean relate?
  • What is the practical difference between the two?
  • Does Lean practice improve Agile development?
  • Can we become an Agile organization without Lean?
  • Why is Lean management team critical for transformation?

Devoid of reality. Leadership that expects others to adopt Agile without understanding requirements they need to change presents a two-face effort. Agile failure is leadership failure to grasp Lean principles.

Lean principles set the vision for the enterprise as well as the development team priority to deliver highest possible customer value.

Lean and Agile live in each to deliver customer end-to-end value.

Really, who expects a C-level executive to learn Agile, lot alone practice Agile. The only way to transition learning to behavior change is to practice learning and training. Executives and management who show commitment by sitting in a class as a way an executive understands and empathizes with an Agile team is a whole backlog full of garbage.

Velocity? Doing the wrong things faster is not success. Doing the wrong things faster is the definition of waste, to quote Einstein [or someone at least as smart].

The demand is for product delivery to change, but no one sees leaders have to.

For enterprise transformation, Agile is Lean.

Agile tries to increase delivery, without management that does not understand Lean, is a two-face company. With that option, save the money, just flip a coin: Heads, management’s win. Tails, Agile’s loss.

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