Lean vs Agile Project Management, alternative or complementary approach


By Luca Cavone

Milan, Italy


Methodologies are not good for “all seasons” and do not apply equally with the same results in all contexts and / or industries. Lean and Agile approaches were created to overcome some of the limitations of the traditional Project Management techniques.

Despite the common principles at the base, do Agile and Lean represent alternative or complementary approaches? Which of the methods is most effective and where? Again, what the reasons why? The background, industry, process, business innovation level, object delivered ( i.e.  “Product” or “Service”), etc.. What else?

This paper illustrates an operational framework for scenario mapping. The analysis and the proposed approach are based on real cases, with the aims to present commonalities and differences between Lean and Agile techniques.

Keywords: Lean, Agile, Project Management, Innovation


When dealing with a project, we always have to consider its objective(s). In fact, literature as well as the international experiences developed across the past decades and any among the standards available today do refer to concepts such as strategy, scope, stakeholders, time, cost, quality, risk, etc…

Even though a project target gets set depending on the related business type, context and other features, we can state that in the overall picture the ultimate goal of a project is its success. Success (or failure) is affected and determined by all or a part/a mix of the said elements.

To attain a successful result we can then consider what the factors are which play a major influence (the key contributing factors). Of course there is no way to have a standard approach valid at all times; the right balance needs to be found case by case.

In time, a significant number of project management methodologies and tools were born. Even though viewed as commodities today, such techniques are in fact a great help for properly managing projects. However, in no case their application can be constrained into a copy-and-paste approach, by taking something that has worked elsewhere and simply get it replicated. Suitable methods should be selected and customized where needed, prior to applying in proper context.

It is then important to identify per each project the correct drivers, pointing the right direction. It is quite frequent that traditional methods are not suitable and can fail. Other methods are needed and new approached may be born in the meantime.

In the same perspective it is worth quoting the Lean and Agile Project Management, which were created and introduced to overcome some of the limitations of traditional Project Management techniques. Collecting common sense and feedbacks by company people and business professionals, there’s not always a clear understanding between the two, and historically this created some confusion. The point on which this article focuses is to understand the relationship among these methodologies, clarify if they represent a similar, different or complimentary approach and as a consequence how to deal with their applicability.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This paper was originally presented at the 27th IPMA World Congress in Dubrovnik, Croatia and included in the Congress Proceedings, October 2013. It is republished here with permission or the authors and congress organizers.

About the Author

flag-italyluca-cavoneLuca Cavone 

Milan, Italy

Luca Cavone is a Consultant at JMAC Europe, the Consulting firm of the Japan Management Association. He is mainly focused to support companies in Innovation Management and Product Development Projects typical of R&D and Marketing areas, with an interdisciplinary background of the business processes. In JMAC Luca follows also the study and development of project management methodologies based on the application of Lean Thinking approach. Before joining JMAC he worked several years in the Aerospace industry.   Since 2009 Luca has been actively involved with the International Project Management Association (IPMA); at that time he was between the founders of the Young Crew Italy and was appointed as first chairman. In 2011 he left the position to join the Young Crew Management Board, where he’s currently Head of Membership and Responsible for the Young Project Manager of the Year award. Since 2010 Luca is also a member of the Executive Board of IPMA Italy.  Luca is also an international correspondent for PM World in Italy; he can be contacted at [email protected].

To see other works by Luca Cavone, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/luca-cavone/.