I recently read this whitepaper from Dr. Curtis at CAST Software (you have to register to read it, but it’s worth it, in my opinion). Dr. Curtis covers an aspect of LEAN that he says Agile has overlooked in favor of the “Just in Time” aspects of lean. That aspect is Jidoka.
In manufacturing, Jidoka is are self-monitoring processes and systems that allow a single person to oversee many machines. The machines can detect their own failures or inconsistencies so that you don’t waste people whose job it is to do nothing but error-check the machine. It’s a powerful technique, and one that I agree has been overlooked by the community at-large.
Simply put, Jidoka is about not making mistakes, which is different from Agile’s “fail-fast” mentality. Certainly, I’d rather fail-fast than fail slow, but as I’ve written before, and Dr. Curtis does a better job at articulating, it’s better to never fail in the first place.