I was reading a guest post by Kent Beck on Eric Ries’ blog Startup Lessons Learned today where Kent answers the question “What is Lean about the Lean Startup?”. There was a great comment by someone who identified “intellectual waste” as one of the most damaging to a startup’s health. After agreeing with him, we added some additional comments about how you can avoid this kind of waste by applying Agile & Lean methods.
It got me thinking about Scrum vs. Lean. As I’ve stated in previous posts, I was an early adopter of Scrum and I have delivered many products using the fundamentals of Scrum. I think that Scrum is most effective as a replacement for teams who are using classic waterfall methods to develop products in a mature market. Instead of planning up front and going dark for months while you develop and test, you simply divide the work in month-size chunks which allows for the team to be more agile and the customer/stakeholder to get confidence in the team. It seems like common sense, but I’m still surprised by how many teams still use waterfall.
In order to be successful in a new market, you need to test new ideas and features as quick as possible with the goal of getting feedback from your early adopters. I’m very much a proponent of the Ready-Fire-Aim tactic in early stages. Don’t waste to much time at the whiteboard or in a planning session. Do something, measure it, and adapt. Unless you are extremely lucky, you will fail quickly and often, resulting in code getting thrown away. In Scrum, where the team is driven towards sprint goals, throwing away code can feel very defeating and wasteful. If you are subscribing to the Lean Startup principles, throwing away code isn’t always bad. It means you learned something about your product/market fit, which is always a good thing.
If you are in a start-up and using Scrum, I suggest you read up on some of the leaner methodologies like XP and Kanban. I believe they are a better fit and can help to align the entire company to the same goal of product/market fit. There’s also a great post called Scrumban by Corey Ladas that describes how to make the transition from Scrum to Lean.