Mar 22

The Little worlds of Agile and Lean

Lately, I have found myself being sucked in the little world of ‘Lean Startups’. Since I love being sucked into new little worlds, I do not mind this at all. I savor the feeling of being a traveller in a slightly different culture, learning their language. If a Frenchmen thinks of bread, he would call it ‘pain’ (something really funny if you’re an Anglophone driving in France), and it would probably be of the much lighter and fluffier sort than what a German person means when he says ‘brot’. I celebrate these differences, because I find it intriguing to see what the similarities and differences are.

I am a native UX speaker, who then learned the Agile language and I am now learning the Lean Startup Language. I feel like I need to know the language to really convey whatever message I deem useful, before I can successfully communicate and make meaningful connections.


I’m reading Eric Ries’s book and will be reading a lot of other books and blogposts after that one. What I find remarkable is that the mindset he is trying to convey in his book is the same one I’ve adopted some time ago (and which I, until now, have always called ‘Agile’). The thing is, he applies this same mindset on a different part of the world, namely that part of the world that focuses on beginning businesses that focus on building and marketing a product. The startup world.

This was an eye opener to me, because I realized I come from a different part of the world, namely that part of the world that busies itself with designing and building products. The Product Development world (from a User Experience perspective). Both worlds have the same mindset. Both worlds keep saying the same thing. The labels we put on those things are just different. And with every word I’m reading, I’m trying to map out which label of the one world fits with which label of the other world.

For instance, if – in the book – I read the words ‘Customer Development’, I at first only understand it has something to do with ‘getting out of the building’. In my personal Mental Model (is this a UX word?), this will roughly translate as user testing, people research, customer feedback. Metrics would be called results from quantitative research, and customer archetypes are personas.

I wonder why these worlds have their own language.

I don’t care much about what we call things. I just want to be able to convey a relatively accurate message. But it’s good to know that we all mean roughly the same thing. Lean is Agile. Even though a Frenchmen’s mental model of bread is somewhat different from a German person, it is still bread. We may speak a different language, on a high level we apply the same mindset. It’s good to see that both worlds realize they can learn from each other and find value in combining these worlds. So let’s learn what words we all use and start combining those strengths!

Let me know if you have a more complete view on things, so I can broaden my horizon!


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