You've heard of Agile and how much it can do to a project's success and to overall company efficiency.
Now, you'd like to go ahead and test it in your own field of work. But unless you know what exactly you're looking for, it can be tricky to find the right approach straight away.
Agile has been working towards process and productivity improvement of companies across all industries. Its main ideals have been gathered in the Agile Manifesto. Following are stated basic characteristics of the widely popular Agile-related terms.
Lean Manufacturing and Lean Development
The approach is mainly focused on waste reduction across all production levels. Note, that in knowledge-based organizations all work that doesn't contribute to progress is considered wasteful. Lean principles base largely on Value Streams, which are visual representations of the actions and process steps that contribute to the project success and help to get rid of those that don't.
There are no definite management instructions of how to proceed with a Lean project—they are mainly guidelines.
Extreme Programming (XP)
This work management method has been designed for software development specifically. It largely focuses on increasing the responsiveness to a changing demand of the customer. XP advocates to release often and to plan development in short cycles, after which customer's requirements can be confronted with latest release and possibly adjusted.
This is a specific visualization and task management system, that's putting a lot of focus on team roles within the process and on planning work in small, time-definite cycles—called Sprints. Tasks are often devised as User Stories—development features as described by their future user or customer.
The great thing about Scrum in its ideal is that after each iteration, there should be a fully workable product achieved. Scrum works best for types of activities that can be planned ahead, as working sudden changes in requirements into an ongoing Scrum process can be tricky.
Also a visualization and task management system, originally developed for Lean Manufacturing (by one of Toyota's industrial engineer—Taichi Ohno). It bases on sign cards, which indicated parts in stock—hence showing what parts were needed for ordering, simplifying the supply chain and highly raising productivity. In early 2000s, the idea of using sign cards and moving them about a process board has been introduced to software development and then spread onto all branches of business.
Kanban asks to visualize workflow and limit the Work in Progress to reduce waste and unfinished work. The long-term focus of Kanban is continuous improvement, achieved through learning on past process impediments and adjusting the process accordingly.
To sum up, not all of the Agile methods can be used for all process types, some will work best just for specific processes (XP, Scrum), while others can be applied to any project and industry (Lean, Kanban).
Whether you're in software development or not, you can adopt an Agile project management method with a customizable Agile online tool and build a visual board to match your very own process. There is a lot to be gained.