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The Lean-Agile Mindset

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Overview of the Lean-Agile mindset, which is critical for supporting Lean-Agile development at scale across the entire enterprise.

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People are already doing their best. The problem is with the system. Only management can change the system. It is not enough that management commit themselves to quality and productivity, they must know what it is they must do. ... Such a responsibility cannot be delegated.

—W. Edwards Deming


Deming’s quotes remind us of a basic premise of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe): The ultimate responsibility for the success of the enterprise, and thereby any significant change to the way of working, lies with management. And there’s no question that moving to a Lean-Agile paradigm will be a huge change. Not only are the practices different, but the belief system, core values, culture, and management philosophy are different as well.

To begin this journey of change and instill new habits into the culture, leaders and managers should learn and adopt the Lean-Agile mindset, as shown in Figure 3-1.


Figure 3-1. The aspects of a Lean-Agile mindset

There are two primary aspects of a Lean-Agile mindset, described here:

  • Thinking Lean. Organized around six key concepts, much of the thinking is pictured in Figure 3-1. The roof represents the goal of delivering value. The pillars support this goal through the concepts of respect for people and culture, flow, innovation, and relentless improvement. Lean leadership provides the foundation on which everything else stands.

  • Embracing agility. SAFe is built entirely on the skills, aptitude, and capabilities of Agile teams and their leaders. And while there’s no single definition of what an Agile method is, the manifesto provides a value system that introduced Agile methods into mainstream software development.

Together, these help create the Lean-Agile Mindset, which is a large part of a new management approach and an accelerator to cultural improvement. It provides the thinking tools and belief system that leadership needs to guide a successful enterprise transformation. In turn, this helps both individuals and businesses achieve their goals. Each is described further in the following sections.

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