May 13, 2010 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: SCRUM
The Similarities Between Lean and Scrum
By Demian Entrekin
I’ve been doing some parallel reading: “Lean Manufacturing” and “Scrum.” On first glance, that may seem like an odd combo, that there might not be much in common between these two disciplines. Lean Manufacturing is largely about how to create flexible, cost-effective manufacturing ecosystems. Scrum is about how to develop software applications in an iterative, agile fashion. Pretty big differences.
But there are at least four areas that jump out as being distinctly similar:
- The Team Construct - in both disciplines, the team functions as the essential organizational structure. In the 1990 classic, “The Machine that Changed the World,” Womack and his co-authors argue that “lean production calls for learning far more professional skills and applying these creatively in a team setting rather than in a rigid hierarchy” (p. 14). In Ken Schwaber’s Scrum Guide “teams are also self organizing. No one - not even the ScrumMaster - tells the team how to turn Product Backlog into increments of shippable functionality. The Team figures this out on its own. Each Team member applies his or her expertise to all of the problems. The synergy that results improves the entire Team’s overall efficiency and effectiveness.”
Continuous Improvement - In both disciplines, continuous improvement, led by the team, is a crucial component of the approach. Continuous improvement has many benefits, including a professional mindset for the team members. Again, Womack & Co: “after the teams were running smoothly [Ohno] set time aside periodically for the team to suggest ways collectively to improve the process…” And in Schwaber: “The purpose of the Retrospective is to inspect how the last Sprint went in regards to people, relationships, process and tools. The inspection should identify and prioritize the major items that went well and those items that - if done differently - could make things even better.”
Access to Information - Womack & Co: “This, in turn, means teamwork among line workers and a simple but comprehensive information display system that makes it possible for everyone in the plant to respond quickly to problems and to understand the plant’s overall situation.” And in Schwaber: “Transparency ensures that aspects of the process that affect the outcome must be visible to those managing the outcomes. Not only must these aspects be transparent, but also what is being seen must be known.”
Process Change - In both disciplines, the notion of having a clear process is not as important as the ability to change the process in order to improve it. This certainly implies having a clear process to begin with, but change is the key. Womack & Co: “Toyota encouraged its first tier suppliers to talk among themselves about ways to improve the design process.” And again Schwaber: “Scrum is not a process or a technique for building products; rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. The role of Scrum is to surface the relative efficacy of your development practices so that you can improve upon them while providing a framework within which complex products can be developed.”
There are many ways in which Lean Manufacturing and Scrum software development are very different: the team size and structure required to produce products; the cost to develop a production facility; the raw materials required to produce product; the dependence on suppliers and sub-contractors.
But the similarities are striking. As usual, I am left with more questions. What is happening here? Are these parallel examples of the rise of techniques that are based on Complex Adaptive Systems? Are these the natural developments that come from Deming and his focus on Quality? Are human organizations moving away from closed, rigid hierarchical management systems?
Demian is the CTO of Innotas. As founder and CEO, Entrekin oversaw marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. Today, he focuses on strategic product direction. Prior to Innotas, Entrekin co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its initial products. In that role, Entrekin helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent and played an instrumental role in Convoy’s subsequent acquisition by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management, Entrekin has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. During his 18 year career, Demian has assumed leadership roles as a consultant and as an entrepreneur, delivering commercial and corporate database applications. Demian holds a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University.