Lean and Agile approaches have been the focus in the business world for some time. More recently, Design Thinking has become the latest trend for businesses. This is not to say that Lean and Agile approaches have become less relevant, but individuals are actively experimenting with new ways of looking at problems.
Although the three approaches may seem contradictory to each other since they are methods that are primarily aimed at addressing different situations, various aspects within each approach can work together to provide a positive outcome.
This integrated view of these approaches contributes towards designing and executing sustainable strategies where everybody can get involved in improvement, everywhere, every day. In short, the focus is looking to continuously improve everything and achieve excellence through people.
First, to look at each approach individually:
Design Thinking Principles and Practices – explore the right problems
Design Thinking is about focusing on the future to identify problems and breakthrough solutions in future business requirements or customer needs. This is done through experimentation while dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty.
This is the ‘problem finding’ approach.
Lean Principles and Practices – build the right things
Lean offers a different mindset for developing integrated management and measurement systems. It is important for organisations to focus on their current
environment and foundations, which are well-known to them, in order to identify the opportunities and problems in the current culture, structure, systems and processes, as well as to test their beliefs to learn their way to the right outcomes and to improve business performance.
This is the ‘problem solving’ approach.
Agile Principles and Practices – build the things right
Agile is related to Lean – the differences are around what these mindsets are applied to and how they are applied. Agile involves delivering solutions, working in a fast and iterative way as well as focusing on the needs of customers and adding value to the business; all within changing and uncertain conditions, where people must respond dynamically and adapt to these changing requirements.
This is the ‘solution delivery’ approach.
Although these are fundamentally different, they all:
Focus on purpose, transparency, alignment and autonomy – to set teams up for success
Measure what matters – in clear, short cycles
Make decisions based on learning – practise continuous learning and continuous improvement
Consider many mindsets in one team – ensuring there is a balanced team with a shared vision
Take the final user into account – looking at customer value and business value as the same thing
Too often, the question is “Lean or Agile?” where there is an exclusion of principles simply because it falls under a different approach. The real benefit comes when we bring all three of these mindsets together.
It is therefore possible to integrate these approaches and to use them in combination: