scrum or lean?

This week’s April meeting of the AgileNorth group was a book review. Kevin Dockerill reviewed Mary Poppendieck’s Lean Software Development and Ken Schwaber’s Agile Software Development with Scrum. We spent about forty-five minutes discussing each book, and then half and hour or so comparing the two methods, particularly in relation to applying them in Kevin’s own small team.

While reading the books in preparation for the meeting, Kevin had created a little summary leaflet for each. Each leaflet was in two parts: the first stepped through the book’s chapters picking out the main points, while the second provided Kevin’s commentary and opinion. (In the case of the Scrum book, Kevin also rated each chapter out of 10 – from which we discovered that the first half was much more to his taste than the second!) The format of Kevin’s little leaflets worked extremely well, and I would recommend this kind of approach for any subsequent book review. I particularly liked the idea of chapter ratings, which gave us an at-a-glance view of Kevin’s opinion and also highlighted the two very different halves of the Scrum book.

As the meeting progressed, the discussion moved away from the books and on to comparing and contrasting the two methods – Scrum vs. lean. I was too engaged for taking notes, but I recall some main themes emerging in the opinion of the group as a whole:

  • Scrum is likely to serve well in a traditional, structured, command-and-control organisation, where strong project management and reporting lines reign. Whereas the Lean book offers a bag of tools, and so will probably appeal to more ‘fluid’ organisations.
  • The mapping of software development to manufacturing is not helpful to organisations that aren’t used to growing their own processes and adapting them regularly.
  • The Lean book maps specific practices from lean manufacturing into software development, without providing enough background on why those practices are appropriate.
  • It seems unlikely that many software projects could go 30 days without changing their requirements; so Scrum seems to be targeted at bigger projects.

This was an enjoyable evening, made very productive by Kevin’s thorough and thoughful preparation. I’m looking forward to the next one, on May 15th!

What were your first impressions when you read these two books?

3 thoughts on “scrum or lean?

  1. Kevin,

    I have just published an article on the subject ( comparing lean and scrum ).

    According to the article:

    Scrum is the framework for helping the team collaborating, to make things flow through the development process.

    Lean Software Development, is about creating value, make things flow in the value stream from business need to business value.

    Take a look whenever you have the time.

  2. Kevin,

    i just read your thoughts about Lean and Scrum. But to be honest, stated in the fact that you see a “Versus” between them shows me that you probably should have a look into the topic of lean again.

    You describe lean as a method, which i think isn’t right at all, lean is a mindset, not a method.

    I would love to hear your thoughts about that.


    • Chris, This article is a report of a meeting in which two books were reviewed and compared, mostly as a means to give some background on Scrum and Lean Software Development to a group of agile newbies. Please bear in mind that the discussion reported above took place over 3 years ago; at that time “Lean Software Development” referred exclusively to Mary & Tom Poppendieck’s books, which do present a “method”.

      Context is everything.

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