Lean & Agile

Lean & Agile

This duo is not about the steps in the product development. ‘Agile’ is about keeping the cycles short and ‘Lean’ is about keeping each other focused and aligned with the target. Both philosophies have grown to be part of our modus operandi, both our efficiency and quality benefit from it.



At Spark, lean product development means that we have incorporated working methods to gather and share all necessary information, between all people involved in the development process project.

"In a profession, where every approach and every result is different from the next, optimizing and standardizing the way information flows through the process is vital."Michel van Schie, Director of operations at Spark design & innovation

We have adopted standardized ways to communicate and assess the project fundamentals, like goal setting, planning, tasks and issues within the design team, making sure all team members are properly informed and committed throughout the process.


Agile is a valuable philosophy to Spark. Create quickly and always be prepared to adjust: test solutions as soon as possible. By reducing cycle times for ideation and validation, invalid solutions can be eliminated quickly, saving precious time and resources.

This is why we sketch, simulate, construct or 3D print early in the process to foster ideas and to get a grip on metrics, functionality and experience. We observe, squeeze, push and hack our improvised models to learn as many lessons as possible. We also like to involve the user, whenever and wherever we can.

Lastly, we regularly invite our colleagues and friends to think along. Probing their mind during development is a pragmatic way of validating a design.

An interesting view on Lean versus Six Sigma and stage-gate models:

“Flexible development counteracts the tendencies of many contemporary management approaches to plan a project completely at its outset and discourage change thereafter. These include Six Sigma, which aims to drive variation out of a process; lean, which acts to drive out waste; and traditional project management and phased development systems (including the popular Phase–gate model), which encourage upfront planning and following the plan. Although these methodologies have strengths, their side effect is encouraging rigidity in a process that needs flexibility to be effective, especially for truly innovative products.”

(source: Wikipedia)


Lean principle 

"Lean" is a production philosophy that considers the expenditure of resources in any aspect other than the direct creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System. 

Lean product development (LPD)

LPD is the application of lean principles to product development, a cross-functional activity that seeks to uncover product knowledge hidden within the end-to-end production flow, typically in the hand-over points between functional units.

(source: Wikipedia)

Six Sigma: Eliminating Innovation

Be careful how, where and to what level of detail you apply management processes like Six Sigma. This research shows what can happen:

… It might seem impossible to get large organisations to take part in an experiment in which some go to extremes to avoid errors while others continue as usual, but a trial naturally occurred during the past 30 years. It's called "Six Sigma", a management strategy (some would call it a cult) for virtually eliminating errors. Fifty-eight of the top Fortune 200 companies bought into Six Sigma, attesting to the appeal of eliminating errors. The results of this "experiment" were striking: 91 per cent of the Six Sigma companies failed to keep up with the S&P 500 because Six Sigma got in the way of innovation.