Lean VS Agile

Is Agile the same as Lean? Many times the two terms are mixed and confused as they share the same principles.

What is Lean?

Lean is a management model that aims to maximize value for customers, reducing costs and increasing the quality of the product or service. Mary & Tom Poppenndiek adapted the 7 principles of Lean Manufacturing to software development:

  • Eliminate waste
  • Expand learning
  • Decide as late as possible
  • React as quickly as possible
  • Empower the team
  • Create integrity
  • See the whole

In short, this methodology aims to eliminate waste, selecting those characteristics that really add value, and gives special importance to speed and efficiency.

“Organizations that are truly Lean have a strong competitive advantage, as they respond very quickly and in a disciplined manner to market demand, rather than trying to predict the future.”

What is Agile?

Agile is a term derived from the Agile Manifesto (Agile Manifesto). The manifesto was written in 2011 by a group of people in the field of software development and established a set of common values and principles for all agile methodologies.

The values of the Agile Manifesto are:

Individuals and interactions on processes and tools Software working on extensive documentation Collaboration with the client on contractual negotiation Response before the change on following a plan

And its principles are:

  • To satisfy the client.
  • Acceptance of changes of requirements.
  • Delivery of functional software frequently.
  • Business and development team work together on a daily basis.
  • The projects are developed around motivated individuals.
  • Face to face conversation
  • The software in use is the main measure of progress.
  • Sustainable development.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence.
  • Simplicity
  • Self-organized teams
  • Reflect and perfect.

Purpose and scope

Beyond definitions, it seems to me that the best thing to do is to begin by comprehending in broad strokes what is the purpose of each of them. In this way we can better understand what their differences are, and assess better when applying one or the other.

Agile, is especially indicated to work in unpredictable environments. It is possible that you already know about the Cynefin model. That is why Agile will be especially useful when we need to transform the capacity of an organization to respond quickly to changes.

Lean, focuses on “doing more with less” and for this is based on a just in time approach and the elimination of waste. Lean will be especially useful in environments of predictable demand, low variability, and high volume.

Agile vs Lean Origen and Definition

Speaking of Agile involves talking about a whole set of frameworks, practices and methods that share common values and principles. These values and principles are established in the Agile Manifesto, drafted in 2011 by a series of gurus in the field of software development. While in its formal sense Agile was born in the field of software development, both this and some of the most common ways of putting them into practice (scum) have far exceeded the scope of software development. It is usual to talk about Agile and Scrum in the field of project management in general, as well as in the field of Marketing and education.

Other agile frames

Lean is a business management philosophy. It comes from Lean manufacturing (lean manufacturing, also known as ‘lean production’, ‘lean manufacturing’, ‘clean production’ or ‘production without waste’) and is based on a series of principles to achieve quality, speed and alignment with the customer. . Applying Lean involves: 1) eliminating everything that does not add value, 2) working only on what has value and 3) what needs to be done at that moment. In addition, Lean puts emphasis on the system as a whole, having the perspective of the whole to understand the system and to be able to optimize it.

Lean is about the process and quality, Agile has to do with the scope and value
When reading literature on Lean, it is easy to see that the focus is on process improvement (through elements such as the mapping of the value stream) and quality (zero defects is the goal). While in Agile, the focus is more on the scope (how we define and manage the scope of a new software product) and on the discovery of value (how we can quickly produce something and learn from it through the comments of the customers).

Each, Lean and Agile, has its strengths so it is recommended that anyone interested in one of the two, should know at least something about the other.


Showing the differences between Lean and Agile is a complex task since both methodologies share a common objective: to create business value. The indisputable difference between the two is that Agile was designed to be implemented in a development team, while Lean is applied to a broader framework.