LEAN Project Management vs. Agile Project Management

Project management is an area that many companies struggle with even today. You may have a good product or service to offer, but if it is not managed well at every step, it can lead to disastrous and often disappointing results for the company. Poor management leads to wastage of time, resources and decreases the value of your offering for the customer. Your ability to make timely decisions can also hugely impact various projects being worked on by your company.

What is LEAN project management?

LEAN is a management system that focuses on improving the overall quality of how an organization works. It takes into consideration every process in the organization and helps improve efficiency and effectiveness of each employee and each process. It helps reduce wastage of time and resources, while improving the quality of the product or service and giving better value for money to the end customer.

What is Agile project management?

The management system is a process in which every project is managed and executed in small parts. Each such section is completed, reviewed, critiqued and the project is continued taking into account the fresh insights gained from the last bit of work. The aim of the system is to help make better decisions and solve issues more effectively with less wastage of time and resources.

Are these management systems very different?

Many people consider these two project management systems to be similar. They are, however, quite different in the way they work and are applied to various aspects of an organization.

  • LEAN methodology comes from the manufacturing sector, while Agile methodology comes from software development.
  • LEAN management is a long term process improvement system for a company, while Agile management is used for quick decision making in individual projects.
  • LEAN methodology manages the overall work of an organization, and applies to all areas of management to get a more efficient and effective overall process. Agile methodology concentrates on making good quick decisions and solving issues the best possible way in the least possible time.

As you can see, LEAN is a larger long-term mechanism to change the way a business works over a period of time. Agile, on the other hand, helps with individual projects and processes in the short term. LEAN is a continuing process while Agile is about concentrating on specific tasks in relation to a larger project. Choose the right methodology and processes for your business based on requirements to ensure that the methodology works well for you and your organization.


  1. Sam Cangialosi 2015/10/13 at 16:19

    Is it possible to use both methodologies when trying to implement change in an organization?

    The way I see it is that LEAN Project management is a practice in which a company would take to manage projects at a macro level. Whereas Agile Project Management is the tool or mindset used when executing tasks within project a to ensure success and making the best use of resources, time and money.
    Two very distinctive ways of thinking.

  2. Stephen Brown 2015/10/17 at 06:30

    In the world of projects, language is key. Terminology, how and when it is applied, and the context within which each term is used can literally ‘mean’ the difference between success and failure. As such I have to admit to struggling with the terms LEAN or Agile Project Management. To me, this translates into the tool I’m using defining my discipline.

    Mechanical engineers define themselves as such because they operate in the world of mechanics. Electronics Technicians and Software developers likewise. What they don’t do is classify their profession by the approach or tool they may adopt in order to be effective. So why do we as Project Managers feel the need to define our profession based upon one of the ‘tools’ we may choose to adopt.

    LEAN is TQM in another form, Agile is RAD or RD. Even the terms of TQM and RAD can be further referenced to early applications of tools to derive one apparent solution to a problem.

    As worthy a question as this is given the current hunger for all things quick and easy for general managers to consume, as Project Managers we know that LEAN and Agile are simply tools. They are not a discipline, style, or even an approach to project management no more than an astronaut using a pencil is an artist. The tool doesn’t define the discipline in any other profession I can think of so what benefit is gained by promoting it in our own profession?

    • Nathalie Bélanger PMP, PMI-ACP 2015/11/10 at 15:06

      I agree with Stephen, As project manager, we come to the table with a toolkit. In my case, I come with Agile, Lean, PMBok, PM+, Macroscope etc. All these diverse methodologies and techniques can be used depending on the need of the project.
      I like the lean approach in that it provides an on going improvement methodology, I also like the Agile approach in that it brings with it planning flexibility and a certain structure. I use all the tools in my toolkit just most of the time not all at once.
      I do believe however that we can use Lean methodology to improve Agile processes. Which can be beneficial to certain organisations.

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