A colleague and Lean-Master at a large financial institution gave me a copy of Lean Kaizen: A Simplified Approach to Process Improvements by George Alukai & Anthony Manos. More than anything else, this book drove home to me the similarities and differences between Scrum and Lean (at least Lean, outside of Software Development).
‘The heart of Lean is the Kaizen Process.’ Kaizen means ’change for the better’ and is loosely translated at Continuous Improvement. This is actually a misleading translation, because Kaizen does not imply an iterative repeated process.
The core Kaizen event is nothing else than a Scrum Retrospective. In fact, the descriptions of how to run the meetings are so similar, I suspect they have a common source.
Two differences become quickly apparent:
By following the approach in this book, one group might get 6 Kaizen events per year, but probably more like one to two, because of the effort involved.
The more subtle difference is that management organizes & choreographs the process. The advantage of the Lean approach is that management is more committed making the suggestions happen. I have experienced that this can be a problem for Scrum teams…
Under Scrum, each team sends a filtered, prioritized list of improvements, usually one or two top issues to management after every sprint. When management supports the Scrum teams, wonders can happen. Would you like to be one of the companies which discovered ‘we got more lean doing 6 months of Scrum than doing 3 years of lean with traditional management’?