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Orange: It Rocks Far More than Apple - A Lean Startup Rant

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I recently came across an article on The Hacker Chick Blog called, "Lean Startup: It Rocks Far More Than Agile" and now it’s time to rant about it.

First, a disclaimer: I love the ideas in The Lean Startup. I ordered my copy of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries when it became available for pre-order, I bought The Lean Startup course on Udemy via AppSumo and I already have a copy of Running Lean by Ash Maurya.

In addition, I follow Abby Fichtner ( @hackerchick)  on twitter and I enjoy her content and I’ve got nothing against Joshua Kerievsky (@JoshuaKerievsky) who put the source chart together.

What I am ranting about, is this notion that Agile Vs. Lean Startup is a thing. That they are somehow opposed and that people will have to choose between them and that somehow they must be convinced that one (The Lean Startup) is superior to the other (Agile).

This is just stupid. It makes no sense and it does more harm than good to both the Agile and Lean Startup communities.

So what’s this about? Well, if the article and table are to be believed, then The Lean Startup “rocks far more than Agile” and everything in The Lean Startup is “more real” than in Agile. I won’t go line by line through the table, because I tried and it just got too ridiculous, so instead I picked out some gems and I’ll leave the rest to you.

Product Roadmap (Agile) vs. Business Model Canvas (Lean Startup)

Business Model Canvas is great, no arguments there. However, who said Agile requires a Product Roadmap? I haven’t heard anyone suggest that a Product Roadmap is an Agile thing at all. I’m pretty sure the idea of a Product Roadmap existed long before Agile. There’s no reason why an Agile team couldn’t use the Business Model Canvas instead of a Product Roadmap. Nothing about Agile prescribes a Product Roadmap.

Product Vision (Agile) vs Product Market Fit (Lean Startup)

I see no reason why you can’t have a Product Vision and discover your Product Market Fit. I’d be worried about working for an organization that didn’t have at least some kind of vision.

Release Plan (Agile) vs Minimal Viable Product (Lean Startup)

Who says your release plan can’t be your Minimal Viable Product? In fact, before it was hip to have a Minimal Viable Product, people in Agile were talking about Minimum Marketable Features (see Software by Numbers by Mark Denne), but hey, that book came out way back in 2003 and we can’t be expected to remember that far back, can we?

Sprint (Agile) vs Kanban (Lean Startup)

Since the term “Sprint” was used, I’ll assume this is jumping on the Scrum vs Kanban bandwagon, which I’ll go into a bit more later, but the real interesting thing about this statement is that I don’t recall Eric Ries spending a lot of time talking about Kanban in software development. In fact, it looks like most of the organizations he talks about have been using XP (Agile) on the development side of things.  Eric also seems to work under the assumption that you’re applying Lean Startup ideas to an already Agile development team.

I have no idea how Scrum vs Kanban or Sprint vs Kanban relates to The Lean Startup, nor do I see any evidence that Kanban is required as part of The Lean Startup.

User Story (Agile) vs Hypothesis (Lean Startup)

I remember a day not too long ago, when it wasn’t Agile vs Lean, but Agile and Lean. Which makes more sense, since both Agile and Lean software development draw heavy influences on Lean Manufacturing.

I remember when Mary Poppendieck (Lean) wrote the forward to Ken Schwaber’s Agile Project Management with Scrum, and back when Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash by Mary and Tom Poppendieck was part of the Kent Beck (XP) Signature Series with a forward by Jeff Sutherland (Scrum).

I also remember Implementing Lean Software Development talking about 90% of the things in The Lean Startup including developing a Hypothesis and performing experiments to prove it. This was back in 2007 and I’m sure quite a few Agile type people read and implemented a lot of the ideas in that book including the use of Hypothesis.

I also don’t know of any reason why a Hypothesis can’t be a story.

Definition of Done (Agile) vs Validated Learning (Lean Startup)

While Validated Learning is great and important, it has nothing to do with the Definition of Done. The Definition of Done gets everyone on the same page as to what we mean when we say this feature is “done”. Was it tested? Code reviewed? What about load tests?

It might be interesting to include Validated Learning as part of what it means to be done, but Validated Learning in no way replaces the Definition of Done.

Red-Green-Refactor (Agile) vs Learn-Measure-Build (Lean Startup)

Is this a joke? I can’t believe I even have to write about this. While Red-Green-Refactor is a practice that comes from Test Driven Development (TDD) and describes how you write your code in a TDD environment, Learn-Measure-Build isn’t talking about how you code at all. One has very little to do with other. You might say they both come from Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle which was one of the core influences in Agile.

I see no reason why you would stop using TDD to develop your software simply because as a business you now do the Learn-Measure-Build cycle.

Mock Object (Agile) vs Feature Fake (Lean Startup)

This can’t be serious anymore, can it? Again, we’re comparing how you test your code vs. how you test your business hypothesis. Apples and Oranges people…

Continuous Integration vs Continuous Deployment

*Sigh*, show me one organization doing Continuous Deployment that doesn’t have Continuous Integration. It’s one of the first steps to doing Continuous Deployment. Is it April 1st?

Ok, I’m done ranting about the article itself, I can’t take any more. Time to move on.
The real problem here isn’t that it’s factually inaccurate (it is) or that it’s stupid (it is), it’s that we’re trapped in this cycle where in order to gain mind share, rather than simply spreading your successful ideas, it seems like it’s required that the new thing (The Lean Startup, Kanban) gain its ground by attacking the old thing (Agile, Scrum) even when it’s building on the old!

It would be one thing if the new thing were something radically different to the old (think Toyota Production System vs the US assembly line) or something that had opposing values (think Agile vs Waterfall), but it’s not. These are complimentary things.

You can do both Scrum and Kanban in your organization, you can use Lean Startup concepts on your Agile team, and you can apply both Agile and Lean principles. There is no conflict here.

Earlier I said this does more harm than good to both communities. Here’s why:

Let’s say you’re a change agent and you’re trying to introduce Agile in a waterfall organization back in the days before The Lean Startup became a big deal. You’re starting to make progress, but people are still struggling. Then suddenly you turn around and say “Lean Startup rocks way more than Agile! Let’s stop doing this thing I pushed hard for and hop on this new trend!”. How credible are you now in your pursuit of change?

Or let’s say you’re a change agent and you’ve been trying to introduce Agile in a waterfall organization. You used to hear people say “Agile is just a fad, it’ll go away”. Now when they hear about The Lean Startup and how it rocks way more than Agile, they say “I told you so. And this one will go away too.  No reason to change.”

And if you’re trying to introduce a Lean Startup approach, good luck getting solid development practices in. “We don’t need Agile, Lean Startup is way better! We don’t need continuous integration or TDD, we’ll just ship!”

Or “Agile was a passing fad, so is The Lean Startup. We’ll catch the next one…”

Or even, “Yesterday you were selling Agile, now you’ve ditched that for The Lean Startup. You’re all just snake oil salesmen…”

Articles like The Lean Startup Rocks More Than Agile don’t help. Maybe they can get you some short-term publicity, but they’re not helpful in the long run. It just makes it harder to overcome organizational complacency.

What you really need is a  "Yes, and" approach. An approach that says, “What you’re doing in Agile is great, and hey, have you tried a Business Model Canvas? How about Validated Learning? Check out The Lean Startup there’s some great things you might want to add to what you’re doing”.

You might even say that The Lean Startup turns your Agile up to 11!

Today’s image by TheBusyBrain.

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  1. planningforfailure posted this