Agile vs Lean: what are the differences between Agile and Lean?

Are Agile and Lean the same? What are the common points?

Lean and Agile share the same DNA. Indeed, I am used to say that Agile is a form of Lean packaged for software development. What are the common principles and activities? What is similar?

Agile vs Lean: the two common pillars

They share 2 common pillars: Respect People and Continuous Improvement;

Respect People

In Agile and Lean, people are at the very center. Truly, the objective is to empower the team trough respect and professional growth. Consequently, the result is a high performing team at the level of skills and motivation, therefore engagement.

Continuous Improvement

They also share the principle of Continuous Improvement. On a regular basis, the team reviews the way of proceeding, leveraging delivery KPIs to identify areas of improvement and conduct relevant actions for enhancement.

Other common principles

Value to customer and purpose

Both Agile and Lean start with the value to the customer. Definitively, all what is done should generate value, not more, not less, as expected by the customer. In addition, it is important to make “why” explicit as it is a way to better understand what is needed by the customer.


They have the common principle to align and dedicate all means to a given product or service. In Lean, the Value Stream is reviewed and all the means are aligned on it. Similarly in Agile, team has all the required skills to deliver the product including a dedicated Product Owner. When going at Scale, Agile also considers Value Stream / Value Chain to align all the means on the delivery.

Pull the Flow smoothly

Flow and Pull are two another common principles. As a result, this makes it possible to reduce the time to market and decrease batch size and inventory. In addition to cut cost, this also leads to risk reduction.

Embedded quality

For both, quality is not a compromise and is embedded in all the steps of the delivery.

Agile vs Lean: what are the differences?

Agile vs Lean. Lean is for predicable and repeatable environment, and focuses on excellence: challenge the perfection. Agile is for unclear and emerging expectations, and focuses on exploring and learning: fail fast.

Agile and Lean share a huge base. But there are noticeable differences. Actually, it is not surprising when thinking about the contrast in their related contexts. Lean emerged from manufacturing where the delivery, once set, is quite stable and predictable. On the contrary, Agile surfaced from the software development area where uncertainty and change of expectations is the rule.

Lean: challenge the perfection

In Lean, predicable and repeatable delivery process allows to focus on the excellence. Thus, the main objective is to reduce wastes and uncertainty to match customer’s expectations.

Agile: fail fast, learn quick and cheap

In Agile, unclear and emerging expectations from the customer require the focus to be on exploring and learning. Therefore Agile, accepts change and continuously explores to innovate and to deliver value.

What’s next? Learn more about Lean, Agile and its two main frameworks, Scrum, Kanban

Do you want to learn more? Here are some valuable references

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