Lean Transformation using Agile

Lean Transformation using Agile

The May 2016 Harvard Business Review has an article about how Agile methodologies are transforming management.

As an IT guy, Agile is Lean applied to software development. I wrote a book about a similar methodology called Rapid Evolutionary Development back in 1989. Both are about rapid iteration to converge on a deliverable solution when “the problem is complex, solutions are initially unknown and product requirements will most likely change.”

In many ways, Agile is similar to the Lean Startup methodology: Build, Measure, Learn. We also find it in the OODA Loop (observe, orient, decide, act) developed by fighter pilot John Boyd. “Thinking about operating at a quicker tempo…engaging in activity that is so quick it is disorienting [that] inhibits the adversary’s ability to adapt. Whoever can handle the quickest rate of change is the one who survives.” Even Systems Thinking which argues that the company that learns faster than it’s competition wins. From these and other and other sources I think we can begin to consider that rapid learning, faster iteration and rapid prototyping are the key to blitzscaling a company.

Agile approaches to management have begun to spill over from IT into adjacent customer and management arenas.

Agile sounds more desirable than Lean, doesn’t it? Would you rather be agile or lean? Maybe this is a new way to approach implementing Lean or the Toyota Production System in a company. Rather than wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling implementations of Lean, start in IT and let the methods spill over into neighboring work units until it reaches a critical mass.

This is how cultures adopt, adapt or reject change. Might be worth a try.


Boyd, The fighter pilot who changed the art of war, by Robert Coram, Little Brown, 2002.

Lean Startup, Eric Ries, Crown Business, NY, 2011.

Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Peter Senge, et. al., DoubleDay, 1994.

Rapid Evolutionary Development, Jay Arthur, Wiley, NY, 1989.