The 3 Revolutions: Agile, Lean, and Lean Start-up

In 1400 words, I’ll define Agile, Lean, and Lean Start-up models that are different but have points in commons. I have not enough words to describe in this paper tools used in these methodologies as SCRUM, XP, and KANBAN for example.

To develop winning project, the typical software development process which is a sequential design process was used in organizations and we call it Waterfall. Indeed, in the previous century most people worked focus on the execution than on innovation.

Waterfall model is a product-oriented development with a step-by-step process: requirements, design, implementation, verification, and maintenance. But requirements changes, implementation takes too long, testing skipped, and deployment and maintenance

Waterfall methodology should be use when there is a clear picture of what the final product should be; when clients won’t have the ability to change the scope of the project once it has begun, and when definition, not speed, is key to success.

Today things change more quickly, more uncertainty. A rapid production is more important than the quality of the product, clients will be able to change the scope of the project, there isn’t a picture of what the final product should look like, you have skilled developers who are adaptable and able to think independently, and the product is intended for an industry with rapidly changing standards… All these points come from the Agile methodology. Instead of a sequential design process, the Agile methodology follows an incremental approach.

Developers start off with a simplistic project design, and then begin to work on small modules. The work on these modules is done in weekly or monthly sprints, and at the end of each sprint, project priorities are evaluated and tests are run. These sprints allow for bugs to be discovered, and customer feedback to be incorporated into the design before the next sprint is run.

The process, with its lack of initial design and steps, is often criticized for its collaborative nature that focuses on principles rather than process[1].

In February 2001 seventeen software developers met and defined the core principles of agile software development methods in an Agile Manifesto:

–          Individuals and interactions over process and tools

–          Working software over comprehensive documentation

–          Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

–          Responding to change over following a plan

The Agile methodology allows for changes, re-writes to the program after feedbacks made by the customers, that is an advantage and that allows to be on the top of the sector industry. Project are constantly evaluated and clients add their feedback. During the “Sprint” step, test ensures that the problem are caught and the development cycle is well.

By the way, the project can become a series of code sprints and the project is likely to come in late and over budget because a less successful project manager. And the final product can be grossly different than what was initially intended.


“Agile fails due to resistance or failure to change culture”. Lean Change Management helps people passionate about meaningful change learn new approaches to organizational change.

Lean is a process designed to eliminate waste, amplify learning, and make decisions late, fast delivery, empowered teams, product integrity and a fully understood system. Lean is focus on expanding capacity by reducing costs and shortening cycle times, understanding what is important to the customer, and it’s definitively not about eliminating people.

We defining waste as anything that does not add value to a process and that which a customer would not want to pay for it given a choice.

Typically 95% of all lead time is non-value-added.


The principles and concepts of Lean Manufacturing are based on the Toyota Production System, and can be applied in nearly every manufacturing environment including high volume, mixed model production as well as job shops and custom manufacturing.[2]

Lean Manufacturing is the production of your product to your customer’s maximum daily demand in a balanced sequenced flow process with minimal lead time using only the value-added elements of that process. All non-value added activities, such as material handling, changeover, waiting, moving, and defects manufacturing are either eliminated or minimized.

Lean Manufacturing is a new departure from traditional manufacturing methods:

Lean Manufacturing Traditional Manufacturing
Simple and Visual Complex
Build to Demand Build to Forecast
Minimal Inventory Excessive Inventory
Focus on Non-Value Added Focus on Value Added Work
Minimum Lot Size Batch Processes
Minimal Lead Times Long Lead Times
Quality Through Process Quality Through Inspection
Value Stream Owners Departmental Supervision

Existing change management methods make it really hard to ensure that our change plan keeps up with our continued learning. Major failure has to occur before a change in direction is considered. As a result, organizations end up with a change that does not provide the intended value. 

Organizational change is unpredictable, and outcomes are extremely hard to predict (as a start-up).

Lean Startup is adapted by Eric Ries within his entrepreneurial behaviour in his book The Lean Startup.


Within an iterative process building products or services, startups don’t waste their time, reduce the market risks and are able to understand the need of the customers that reduce failures.

Indeed, Ries believes that customer feedback during product development is integral to the lean startup process, and ensures that the producer does not invest time designing features or services that consumers do not want.

The Lean Startup philosophy seeks to eliminate wasteful practices and increase value producing practices during the product development phase so that startups can have a better chance of success without requiring large amounts of outside funding, elaborate business plans, or the perfect product.

This Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is at the core of the Lean Startup model.


Lean Startup inspired techniques covered in the Eric Ries’ book including:

The Change canvas: Change agents using the Lean Change method use what is known as a Change Canvas to describe and communicate an agile change plan.

Minimum Viable Changes: When using the Lean Change method, change agents are encouraged to roll out the smallest possible change that will enable learning to understand the viability of an agile change program.

The Validated Change Lifecycle: The Validated Change Lifecycle integrates Kotter’s Eight Steps with the Meta-Iteration Lifecycle Pattern from the Running Lean book. Using this lifecycle, Minimum Viable Changes are both defined and validated according to a specific sequence.


Improvement Experiments: Improvement Experiments are micro, tactical improvement actions that are backed up with a hypothesis that tries to predict the outcome of the improvement

Capability and Performance Metrics: Minimum Viable Changes and Improvement Experiments are validated through measurement. Lean Change provides a number of ways to perform these measurements. Changes are measured primarily from two perspectives. The first perspective is the ability of change participants to adopt, and ultimately excel at new agile and lean methods and techniques. The second perspective is the impact of these techniques on actual delivery performance and value.

If we’re building something that nobody wants, why are we so proud of being on time and on budget? Eric Ries


In my view, Agile principle can be used for aggressive deadlines in urgent projects, that have a high degree of complexity, and a high degree of novelty, or at least that it is new to the team building it. If it’s something the team has done before over and over then the team probably doesn’t need an agile approach. About the LEAN Method, you can apply this methodology, innovation-oriented with the Build-Learn-Measure feedback loop whatever the size of the company, the activity or the team in process. IMVU, Google, and Microsoft for example use this methodology. This process show us the well functions within the Lean manufacturing into Toyota companies, with the products and Business Model feedback, this method is applicable to the start-up and help to develop the network within meetings, interviews, and feedbacks. But what about long-term development? The limit of this LEAN process can be that. Be careful with the Lean model, to implement it, the leadership team need to understand clear fully what it is.

One of the detractors of the Lean, Marc Andreessen says that “Not all startups can be Lean Startups” and “Don’t use the Lean Startup as an excuse to skimp on sales and marketing.”


Eric Ries, The Lean Startup: How today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses, ed. Crown Business

Jeff Anderson, The Lean Change Method: Managing agile organizational transformation using Kanban, Kotter, and Lean Startup thinking, eBook available on

Jason Little, Lean Change; Evolving Change Management, eBook available on

Alex Osterwalder, Business Model Generation


Airbnb case study