What are the differences between agile and lean management?

What are the differences between agile and lean management? Agile and Lean are two popular methods in the world of project management that help teams deliver faster and more sustainable results.

However, the differences and similarities between these two methods are often not clear.

Even the terms themselves are often mistakenly used as synonyms to describe a particular set of actions.

For a project manager, it is important to understand the differences and similarities between lean and agile methodology to ensure proper application and achieve an effective and efficient organization.

What is the pure method?

“Lean” generally refers to the body of knowledge known as “Lean Manufacturing” which was developed in the 50s and 60s in Japan by an engineer named Taiichi Ono.

What is the pure method
What is the pure method

Lean manufacturing has changed many traditional concepts, including:

  • Production should be based on demand and not based on supply. Manufacturing is simply doing something that someone wants and orders, not doing it first and hoping that someone will need it.
  • Production is done on small scales in order to take advantage of economic efficiency.
  • Dedicating time to focus on quality also increases productivity and efficiency.
  • Employers, not managers, are responsible for defining work methods.
  • Instead of performing predetermined tasks over and over again, employees must continuously improve their work methods (so-called “Kaizen”).

These ideas seemed strange and unknown to American and Western industry at the time, but Japanese industrial organizations that embraced these philosophies quickly outpaced their competitors.

In short, the lean management method says that you should eliminate everything that does not add value.

Eliminating excesses means eliminating unnecessary meetings, tasks, and documents, but it also means eliminating inefficient methods, such as doing several tasks at the same time (multitasking).

Lean also has a very strong emphasis on what is called the “system”, i.e. how the team works as a whole.

Work should always be viewed from a higher level to ensure that the process is truly optimized.

This method says it is imperative to respect the fact that the people doing the work are the ones who know how to do it best. Once they get what they need to be effective, they should be left alone and trusted.

What is the agile method?

Agile refers to a set of values ​​and principles expressed in the Agile Manifesto.

The Agile Manifesto basically emphasizes the following aspects:

  • Interaction of people on tools and processes
  • Collaborate with potential clients in negotiating project outcomes
  • Respond to change with a plan

Agile is very similar to Lean, so you will see many similarities between the two.

In general, the agile method is more based on development than production.

Why is it important to know the difference between the two?

Professionals are often confused when they understand the concept of agile and lean. This is because both agile and lean have very common principles and goals. The similarities between both methods confuse the teams that use them.

They do not have a good understanding of the terms and sometimes use the two methods synonymously when describing their practices. In fact, companies are adopting a lean framework instead of agile.

In simple words, not understanding the principles of these methods can lead to damage to the goals of agile and lean teams for the organization.

Therefore, it is necessary to have a clear overview of both agile and lean so that teams can choose, adopt and implement the methodology that suits their needs.

Why agile and pure?

In the changing world of partnerships, both social and digital, organizations are always looking to improve their business management.

Agile and Lean both solve the main problem of dysfunction in organizations:

  • Waterfall project management: A structured, step-by-step approach to planning and goal setting.
  • Functional hierarchical structures.

After understanding the main purpose of Agile and Lean, let’s move on to the important similarities between the two methods.

Similarities between agile and lean management
There are clear similarities between agile and lean methods.

Focus: Customer value

Both agile and lean methods focus on delivering customer value. Creating customer satisfaction and managing processes as much as possible for teams are the two main motivations for both methods.

Purpose: speed of project management

Purpose speed of project management
Purpose speed of project management

Both agile and lean methods have been created with the aim of increasing the speed of project management for organizations. Their main effort is to increase the efficiency in the production of a product.

Importance: teamwork

What is important for agile and lean methods is trust in teammates. After all, all business success comes from teamwork. The efficiency and productivity of team members can help them achieve maximum success.

The lean method predicts the manufacture of products in the least possible number of parts. Due to the concept that it is more efficient this way.

Instead of mass production, the agile method offers many small and frequent versions of the product.

Lean also says that every process must be continuously inspected and adapted to improve. So this method is very focused on continuous improvement, the so-called kaizen.

The agile methodology also provides regular reviews of results and work methods to assess possible improvements.

Another similarity between lean and agile is the focus on collaboration between employees.

In both methods, the employees who perform the tasks are more important than the tools they use.

When it comes to agile and lean, nothing is more important than the bottom line. This result should create value for the customer and is the only goal of the development process.

Agile allows the customer to constantly adapt to their needs, while Lean ensures that no waste is produced. In any case, the customer should get exactly what he expects.


Compared to lean, the agile software development model has more significant advantages in terms of principles, processes, and structure. The Agile lifecycle consists of six stages, while the Lean lifecycle has seven principles. Choosing between agile and lean can be difficult for organizations. But ultimately, end-user needs, the number of target customers, and product complexity all factor into the decision.

Check Also:

An overview of the project concept and the PMBOK standard

Complete project management training and guide based on PRINCE2

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