When people say their working is LEAN or AGILE, do they really mean that it is ‘SCRUM’? I have recently been into a few businesses who have told me that they are using LEAN management or are AGILE working, but I have noticed that they are using one key aspect of AGILE working: SCRUM! 

Scrum, for anyone unsure is a set of practices used in agile project management that emphasize daily communication and the flexible reassessment of plans that are carried out in short, iterative phases of work. It is name originates from the sport of Rugby and the much like the scrums they have in the game, teams will huddle together regularly, but, and not guaranteed, less rough.  

SCRUM may be a big part of AGILE working; however, followers of the LEAN management philosophy would have a look of disgust on their faces if you suggested they are using an AGILE tool too! Yet, if we look more closely, we see that, more than often, LEAN management also employs SCRUM techniques in the same way as AGILE working does; they’re just not officially labelled as “SCRUM”.  

Is there a difference? 

Well, of course there is a difference, otherwise I would not be writing this piece, nor would you be reading it. The main difference is that the AGILE methodology concerns the optimisation of a development process, whereas the LEAN approach concerns the optimisation of a production process instead. 

Production 

  • Predefined product 
  • Creation of as many high-quality products as possible 
  • Variation and rework seen as negative and expensive 
  • Produces results for client with no wastage 

Development  

  • Variation and rework considered to be optimal and beneficial 
  • Factors continuously reviewed and changed according to new information or feedback 
  • Adapts to clients’ needs as they change 

Another main difference between the two approaches is that LEAN methodology is often introduced to improve processes across an entire organisation. The AGILE methodology tends to be applied within a local area only, or just to a team using SCRUM as a key tool. 

What are the similarities? 

As with most, if not all aspects of management and working approaches, there are many similarities between AGILE and LEAN methodology to counteract the differences described above. 

  • Both call for regular checks/inspections 
  • Both rely on cooperation between employees to be successful 
  • People are more important than the tools in the process 
  • Results are of optimum importance and must add value 
  • Customer expectations are also a top priority 

Where is SCRUM in all of this? 

You cannot move onto considering SCRUM without first discussing AGILE, as it is the overall methodology inside which SCRUM is used. In the world of LEAN, if you can answer ‘yes’ to majority of the following questions, then you are also already employing SCRUM: 

  • Do you have a daily meeting to discuss progress and concerns? 
  • Is there a planning meeting at least once a week? 
  • Are there inspection periods (gate reviews) factored into the process/plan? 
  • Do you have defined roles within the working team? 
  • Are incremental products developed at various stages of the project? 
  • Is a review meeting held to discuss ways forward or changes? 
  • Does the project plan have a list of outcome actions and are these broken down for each area/person? 
  • Do you plan, do, check and adjust in repeatable periods? 
  • Are there rules/expectations of behaviour set out within the business/team carrying out the work? 

Each method of working has its own strengths and weaknesses and it can be difficult to decide which is best to use in a given situation. Do we accept, therefore, that both methodologies are strictly interconnected, each one focusing on giving the customer what they want in the most efficient way? 

In my experience, a project’s success and productivity are linked to how these two methodologies are managed. The specific way forward very much depends on the organisation and the type of project that is planned for development. 

What methodology do you use? Why did you choose it and what are the advantages for you? Tell us about your LEAN and AGILE working experiences at: team@penmark.co.uk  

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