Product development can be a complex and challenging process, with many different methodologies and frameworks used as a guide. Some of the most popular methodologies include Lean Product Development, Agile, Scrum, Systems Thinking, Stage-Gate, and Lean Startup. While there is some overlap between these different approaches, each has its own unique characteristics and strengths.

As illustrated in the accompanying Venn diagram, a Systems Thinking framework is at the center and encompasses all other methodologies. Lean Product Development falls within Systems Thinking and encompasses the other remaining methodologies. Scrum falls within Agile, which is itself within Lean Product Development. Finally, Lean Startup is separate from Agile but falls fully within Lean Product Development. The Lean-Agile-Stage-Gate framework also falls completely within Systems Thinking and overlaps with Lean Product Development.

While there is some overlap between these different methodologies, each has its own unique strengths and focuses. For example, Lean Product Development focuses on maximizing value and minimizing uncertainty in the product development process. It achieves this through a range of key elements, including connecting the process to the business needs, set-based development, visual management, creating reusable and visible knowledge, and teams of responsible experts.

Agile, on the other hand, is a framework for managing software development projects that emphasizes flexibility and collaboration. It achieves this through iterative and incremental development, continuous delivery, and close collaboration between development teams and business stakeholders as a subset of Lean Product Development practices.

Scrum is a specific implementation of Agile that emphasizes a structured approach to project management, with regular meetings and clear roles and responsibilities for team members. This helps to ensure that development teams are working efficiently and effectively towards a common goal.

Expanding our view, Systems Thinking is a broader approach that considers the entire system in which a product is developed and used. It emphasizes the importance of understanding how different parts of the system are interconnected and how changes in one area can impact the entire system.

Stage-Gate is a structured approach to product development that involves breaking the process down into distinct stages and evaluating each stage before moving on to the next. This helps to minimize risk and ensure that resources are allocated appropriately at each stage of the process. A caveat to stage-gate is that it is a linear process in contrast to Lean Product Development which is an iterative process.

Finally, Lean Startup is an approach to product development that emphasizes rapid experimentation and learning. It achieves this through a process of continuous feedback and iteration, with a focus on testing assumptions and minimizing waste.

Given the unique strengths and focuses of each methodology, it is important for organizations to carefully consider which approach is most appropriate for their specific needs and context. While some organizations may benefit from a more structured approach like Stage-Gate or Scrum, others may find that a more flexible and iterative approach like Lean Startup or Agile is more appropriate. Ultimately, the key is to choose a methodology that aligns with the organization's goals and values and supports the development of high-quality products that meet customer needs.

Do you agree with how these methodologies are characterized?

What methodology does your organization employ or is your organization embroiled in a constant firefighting effort?

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The LPPDE conference October 3-5, 2023 in Ann Arbor will be exploring these ideas as well as many more and provide a forum for participants to share, learn, and collaborate with other like-minded development leaders.

Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to learn from and share with others at the LPPDE Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan October 2-5, 2023 (Registration Link)

Dantar Oosterwal

Chair of Conference, LPPDE NA 2023

Dantar Oosterwal has a passion for Innovation and an enthusiasm for the improvement of Business Systems. At the intersection of these two interests, Dantar is a leader in the application of lean methods in new product development creating dramatic improvements in effectiveness and efficiency. Besides the award winning book, ‘The Lean Machine’, Dantar has also co-authored together with Durward Sobek the publication of Allan Ward’s manuscript, ‘Visible Knowledge for Flawless Design’.You can learn more at Or you can learn about Dantar’s latest initiative at Dantar holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Michigan and a Masters degree in Management from the Sloan School of Management at MIT.