Lean, Agile, Design, Lean Startup...?

The fifth chapter answers the question of which to choose from these contemporary “schools” that are shaping the ways of working and organization cultures globally. Is lean better than agile, and what about design thinking or lean startup?


  1. Introduction to the different frameworks
  2. Creating shared meanings
  3. The process of negotiation
  4. Summary, which framework to really choose
  5. Additional readings
  6. Exercise

The lecture slides for all the videos in this chapter can be downloaded from here

1. Introduction, creating shared meanings

The chapter begins with an introduction to the different methods, also taking a step back and starting from the uncertainty.

2. Creating shared meanings

This chapter further opens up the idea of “creating shared meanings” by introducing Etienne Wenger’s model for negotiating meanings among social groups.


3. The process of negotiation

The key to success is creating shared meanings about the definition of value. As there is no one readymade answer to what, for example, value means, shared understanding needs to be created, and for that, the process of negotiation is required.


4. Summary

In the final part of the chapter, a summary is made, finally answering the question of which framework to choose.


Further readings

  • Video: Jeff Gothelf: Lean, Agile & Design Thinking — Principles over process. YLE Areena.
  • Kanter, R.M., 1989. Swimming in newstreams: Mastering innovation dilemmas. California Management Review, 31(4), pp.45–69.
  • Schneider, J. Understanding Design Thinking, Lean, and Agile. O’Reilly 2017.
  • Gothelf, J. Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking. Sense and Respond Press, 2017.
  • Wenger, E. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity ,Cambridge University Press, 1998.



The exercises were part of the course in spring 2020, originally done in pairs and submitted by email to receive credits from the course. In this online handbook, the exercises cannot be submitted for feedback, as it is not possible to receive credits. Yet we highly encourage you to check the exercises, and do, or at least think about them. They are best done with a pair, for example a colleague or a fellow student, but can also be done alone, thinking of your own current situation.

This chapter’s exercise is about the criteria for success of your project. What is the desired impact, and why does it matter?