Agile approaches have not only revolutionized the product development practices and the IT industry, they have also put on the forefront a great number of existing practices by simplifying their application and integrating them in a clear and systematic framework.
Unfortunately, the recent wave of experts interested in Agile Lean has great knowledge of Scrum and Agility, but little knowledge of Lean practices. Therefore, these experts more or less skillfully recreate the patterns of Scrum in processes or they limit the scope of Agile Lean to support software development projects. The potential gains are thus narrowed.
The origins of Lean and Agile methods are not new. The use of supportive, dedicated, and multidisciplinary teams was already in practice in the 80s. For instance, at that time, the automobile industry adopted approaches related to Agility (called concurrent engineering) in order to design new models more quickly by drastically reducing the steps of product development. This way of doing propelled the Japanese industry. The methods of sequential engineering, known as waterfall methods, were abandoned in innovation management. On the operational side, more than 50 years ago, Japanese initiated Lean approaches for process efficiency improvement. Nowadays, Lean methods extend to all industries.
The benefits of Agile Lean
The current context of IT is now requesting to pay close attention to product value, client satisfaction, and responsiveness to change. IT organizations are more complex than they used to be and the quest for operational efficiency is omnipresent. This explains the growing interest of companies in derivatives of the Lean philosophy, including Agile Lean since the early 2000s.
Agile Lean takes the best of Lean practices, where the central element is process improvement, and the best of Agile practices, which encourage better structured and more challenging team dynamics as well as team commitment and cohesion between teams and their clients. This makes Agile Lean the method best suited to all continuity processes, such as those of infrastructure, support, and services teams. Therefore, Agile Lean has great potential since it is known that more than 80% of the total cost of IT services is related to continuity process.
Normally, Agile Lean preserves and systematizes so well the best of Lean practices that its application should at least double the efficiency of most continuity processes. All the elements necessary for the proper management of waste, blockers (Andon Toyota), Kanban flow, takt time, micro-kaizen, dynamics of self-managed teams, client involvement and quality assurance are combined in a visual management that makes the current situation visible to everyone and that allows to make informed decisions quickly.
In short, to fully enjoy the Agile Lean potential, it is important not to focus only on its Agile component, but also its Lean root, which is its distinctive character.