Since we announced the forthcoming “Big Agile” webinar (click here for details), I have been exposed to numerous questions and comments about “Big” vis-a-vis “Lean” in the Agile context. The intensity of some of these discourses was so high that I decided to comment on the subject in advance of the webinar. A lively debate during the webinar is, of course, goodness. In contrast, starting the webinar with a potentially gross misunderstanding as to where we are coming from and where we are heading is not too desirable.
In general, “big”, to me, can be “lean”. As a matter of fact, big should be lean as otherwise scale will quite possibly pose a problem.
Specifically, in the Agile context I expect “Big Agile” to incorporate various elements of Lean. For example:
- Utilize Value Stream Mapping
- Measure Cycle Time
- Apply Work in Process (WIP) limits
Examining software methods over the past few years, I actually interpret the evolution of both Agile methods and Lean techniques as elements of a much bigger trend. Software development is moving closer to the business and becoming better aligned with the business. Value stream mapping, continuous integration (which enables continuous feedback), and the driving of software development through strategic investment themes are all part of a pattern: the walls between development and the business are coming down. As a matter of fact, the walls between development and other departments are coming down. Such breaking of the walls that had created silos is most obvious today in devops, but it is starting to happen in marketing, professional services, customer support and elsewhere.
Juggling on the Berlin Wall (source: Wikipedia)
I have a strong feeling of deja vu as I write this post. It took system management quite a few years to align IT with the business through Business Service Management (BSM). IMHO the same kind of growing pains we had experienced back then with respect to system management are simply re-manifesting themselves now as we align software development with the business.