Lean Startup or Agile or Lean Startup and Agile?

| by Shane Hastie on Sep 21, 2011. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

Joshua Kerievsky triggered a debate with a recent post on the Industrial Logic blog titled “Agile vs Lean Startup” 

In the post he states that “[Lean Startup] rocks – it rocks far more than Agile”

He goes on to list what he sees as the contrasts between Agile and Lean Startup:
















Abby Fichtner of the Hacker Chick Blog reposted the table with the comment:

In Agile, we measure progress with Velocity, we say “how much software did we develop this week?” Lean Startup says “Who the hell cares how much software we developed this week – how many people bought our product or used our software” – you know, the things we actually care about.

The post resulted in a significant twitter stream along with at least one post objecting to the perceived Agile vs Lean Startup nature of the Kerievsky’s post.

Todd Charon in the Planning for Failure blog challenged the underlying premise of the original post. He says

What I am ranting about, is this notion that Agile Vs. Lean Startup is a thing. That they are somehow opposed and that people will have to choose between them and that somehow they must be convinced that one (The Lean Startup) is superior to the other (Agile).
This is just stupid. It makes no sense and it does more harm than good to both the Agile and Lean Startup communities.

He goes on to address each of the “xxx vs yyy” statements in the table and maintains that they are not either/or concepts rather they are fundamentally complementary.

He is especially concerned about the perception of Lean Startup as somehow superseding Agile will harm the software development community:

Let’s say you’re a change agent and you’re trying to introduce Agile in a waterfall organization back in the days before The Lean Startup became a big deal. You’re starting to make progress, but people are still struggling. Then suddenly you turn around and say “Lean Startup rocks way more than Agile! Let’s stop doing this thing I pushed hard for and hop on this new trend!”. How credible are you now in your pursuit of change?
Or let’s say you’re a change agent and you’ve been trying to introduce Agile in a waterfall organization. You used to hear people say “Agile is just a fad, it’ll go away”. Now when they hear about The Lean Startup and how it rocks way more than Agile, they say “I told you so. And this one will go away too. No reason to change.”
And if you’re trying to introduce a Lean Startup approach, good luck getting solid development practices in. “We don’t need Agile, Lean Startup is way better! We don’t need continuous integration or TDD, we’ll just ship!”
Or “Agile was a passing fad, so is The Lean Startup. We’ll catch the next one…”
Or even, “Yesterday you were selling Agile, now you’ve ditched that for The Lean Startup. You’re all just snake oil salesmen…”

He ends the post with a strong call to take a “yes, and” perspective on Agile and Lean Startup:

You might even say that The Lean Startup turns your Agile up to 11!

Is Lean Startup the next big thing, is it the natural progression of Agile, or is it just another fad that will pass if we ignore it?


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Comparing apples to pears by Nathan Gloyn

I agree with Todd here. The table is doesn't even begin to compare like for like for instance you can't compare Kanban (an entire system) to a sprint, the two don't go.

To my mind lean startup is primarily a buisness methodology ensuring that you focus on getting something out there, its what the customer wants, etc

There is nothing to stop anybody following lean startup ideas and implementing them in an agile way.

You shall not choose value-packages at all by Adam Nemeth

Every method you choose has advantages and disadvantages. As an engineer, you're responsible to balance advantages and disadvantages so that the end result will be positive.

Many Agile adopters (and Agile couching companies) seem to fail to understand this: I've seen Agile companies suffering for being too Agile, or rather, too large for Agile; they lacked documentation, for example. While it's not a problem to a team of 10-15 people, if your organization consists of around 1000 of these cross-functional teams, a lot of parallel implementations, a lot of misunderstandings will occur, and it's hard to find the people to interact with.

Documentation, compared to human interaction, is a pain sometimes, but so is the chaos which ensures when you can't find anyone to speak with, yet you have no documentation at hand either.

Lean startups treat their users as guinea pigs. While some users are eager to bring in their feedback, others just want a service to solve their problems. Some may need consistence, not interfaces changing every second day. It all falls back to a single principle: do you understand that your customers are humans you are responsible for, or are just primitive lifeforms who can't understand Scala, and you meet them only as chart figures, hence deserve no respect?

I understand it's hard to think someone as human who's totally different from you and you never meet: yet as engineers you're responsible to create a better place for them, and not for yourself.

Of course, if you're a startup, you take risks, and your users are also to take risks: you may go out of business in a month or two, or decide to go into a totally different direction. But you have to recognize when to stop this risky behaviour, as people start to rely on you.

In the end, it's the results that count of course; whenever you hear a fad, go see the result for yourself. How does Industrial Logic E-learning solve your e-learning needs? Is it the best app you've ever seen? How about its code? Does it matter? Do you like it? Did you like sudden changes in facebook? Did your grandmother like it? Is it also for her? If something changes, can you get accustomed to it, or the new way simply s.cks for ya? Does it matter?

You have to make choices. You have to recognize situation. You shall never go into a one size fits all solution, as even if people say they don't believe in silver bullets, when they write such papers, I can't believe they don't believe in it.

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