Let’s focus here on how Agile emerged, how it acquired the label Agile, and where it went from there. It’s important to take a look at where Agile software development came from to get an understanding of where things are at today.
What is Agility? And what means Agile?
The expression »Agile« describes the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of handling, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.
The authors of the Agile Manifesto chose »Agile« as the label for this whole idea because it represented the adaptiveness and response to change which was so important to their approach.
It is really about thinking through how you can understand what’s going on in the environment that you’re in today, identify what uncertainty you’re facing, and figure out how you can adapt to that as you go along.
Agile is a Mindset
Ultimately, Agile is a mindset informed by the values contained in the Agile Manifesto and the 12 Principles behind the Agile Manifesto. Those values and principles provide guidance on how to create and respond to change and how to deal with uncertainty.
You could say that the first sentence of the Agile Manifesto encapsulates the whole idea: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.”
When you face uncertainty, try something you think might work, get feedback, and adjust accordingly.
Keep the values and principles in mind when you do this. Let your context guide which frameworks, practices, and techniques you use to collaborate with your team and deliver value to your customers.
What are Agile Methodologies?
If Agile is a mindset, then what does that say about the idea of Agile methodologies? To answer this question, you may find it helpful to have a clear definition of methodology.
Alistair Cockburn suggested that a methodology is the set of conventions that a team agrees to follow. That means that each team is going to have its own methodology, which will be different in either small or large ways from every other team’s methodology.
So Agile methodologies are the conventions that a team chooses to follow in a way that follows Agile values and principles.
“Wait,” you’re probably saying, “I thought Scrum and XP were Agile methodologies.” Alistair applied the term framework to those concepts. They certainly were born from a single team’s methodology, but they became frameworks when they were generalized to be used by other teams. Those frameworks help to inform where a team starts with their methodology, but they shouldn’t be the team’s methodology. The team will always need to adapt its use of a framework to fit properly in its context.
What about Business Agility?
There are some kind of efforts that results in the Business Agility movement.
If you extend the idea of Agile as a mindset, then people seeking Business Agility ask themselves, “How might we structure and operate our organization in a way that allows us to create and respond to change and deal with uncertainty?”
You might say that business agility is a recognition that in order for people in an organization to operate with an Agile mindset, the entire organization needs to support that mindset. Agile software development was never truly Agile until the organization changed its structure and operations to work in an uncertain environment.
And now let me ask you:
How agile are you?
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