While Lean is not an Agile framework there are many lean elements to Agile including a focus on value and the continuous improvement reviews we carry out in each sprint cycle.

What is Lean?

The primary focus of Lean is maximising customer value while minimising waste. Put another way, Lean is about creating more value for customers with less.

Lean organisations understand customer value and they focus their processes to continuously increase that value. The ultimate goal of Lean is to provide perfect value to the customer through a value creation process that has zero waste.

Lean’s origins lie in manufacturing, specifically at Toyota where the term was coined in the 1980s by its research team.


A popular approach to Lean is with Lean Six Sigma, a methodology that uses team collaboration to improve performance by removing waste. This methodology is not used for digital project delivery, it’s more relevant to larger organisations looking to improve processes that affect hundreds of users or to improve manufacturing processes. It’s a methodology rather than a framework like Agile so it tends to be a much heavier and prescriptive which doesn’t fit well with the nature of Agile.

Do we need lean?

If we want to do our jobs effectively and efficiently then yes, we do need lean. We can borrow from lean and integrate elements quite easily into our processes. This is about implementing efficient processes that deliver high quality.

With Agile we implement break points in the sprint cycles to review how effectively we’re performing. We look at our processes and at the quality of what we’re delivering. When we identify opportunities to improve what or how we deliver, we implement those changes, regardless of how big or small the impact is. Small improvements can add up to a lot over time.

Being open about our performance with our customers, sharing information about our performance, inviting them to sit in our retrospective meetings, sharing our ideas for improvement and demonstrating the effect of the improvements helps to develop the trust and confidence between us. When a customer is involved in the process of continually making things better, increasing the value of the service we provide and the quality of the products we produce, they appreciate even the smallest improvements.

The more efficiently we work, the higher quality results we produce for our customers and the better work environment we provide for our colleagues. Continuously reviewed and improved lean processes are a must-have if we’re to succeed.

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