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What is Agile?

The idea of "Agile" seems instinctively obvious, and generally preferable to not-Agile, but what exactly is "Agile"?

We characterise business agility by thinking about what we and our clients want to achieve through agility.  Our clients talk about:

  • responsiveness to competitors or to customer needs; 
  • introducing new products or services; 
  • responding to policy changes;
  • changing strategic direction quickly.

The common element seems to be accelerating the execution of business decisions, whether strategic or tactical, through to value in terms of customer and/or stakeholder benefits.  Business decisions demand a change to the way the business operates.  The change may be implemented through a major project, or continuous improvement of business as usual. In either case, there may be a dependency on IT to establish a software capability to support the change.

While the core of accelerating change is therefore often about processes, our experience has taught us that Agile is as much an attitude, or mindset, as a rigorous approach.  There are a lot of Agile techniques, many of which we have tried, and mostly focussed on software development. 

Using techniques doesn't make you Agile, but it encourages you to behave in a more agile way. Your behaviour helps you appreciate the Agile values.  Your Agile values show in all those hundreds of detailed decisions everyone in your organisation makes every day, to implement the strategic decisions.  That's part of the Agile journey.

In working with clients adopting Agile, it seems we each have our own Agile journey.  We each have our own starting points, our immediate priorities, our longer term goals, whether individually, or in our teams, or as a business.  

The applicability of Agile thinking is near universal - our team sometimes struggles to think whether Agile will help in a situation, but we have always seen how Agile will improve the outcome.

We focus on a few key ideas, our Agile principles, which seem more like common sense, than radical innovation, and maybe that's our core view of Agile:  do the sensible things, quickly and efficiently;  don't do what you don't need to do - just do the least necessary to get the results.  It sometimes seems like in the last decades, we have learned a lot of unhelpful behaviours, that just get in the way. 

Subpages (1): Our Agile Principles