Sarah Taraporewalla's Technical Ramblings

What Is Agile?

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At the moment, it seems quite vogue to say your company is Agile. But what does it really mean? 

Before joining ThoughtWorks, I worked for a company which decided to go Lean. To the managers, they were doing all the right things - making Lean training courses mandatory; making every employee watch videos about it and answer quizzes; incentivizing waste reduction initiatives.

I asked my former colleagues the other day how all that Lean stuff was going. Their answer didn’t surprise me - nothing had changed in the organization, except now they have dual screens and they are getting faster machines.

The problem? The workers, the man-on-the-street saw the Lean initiative as YAIBUM (Yet Another Initiative By Upper Management). Lean processes were in place, the company called itself Lean but how can they really claim it if the employees do not believe it.

Being Agile is not about the procedures you have in place, not about how many black-belts you employee nor about which variant you choose to follow, and definitely not about marketing.

Agile is a philosophy; it is a way of thinking. It is about looking at what is happening in your environment and constantly assessing how to do it better. It is not the different methodologies like Lean, Scrum, XP or KanBan; these are merely tools which help you to improve. You can use one particular methodology, or parts from all of them - as long as you recognize that they are only guidelines and if they don’t work in a particular situation you should find one that does. One size does not fit all.

Next time someone/company/yourself claims to be Agile, double check - are they talking abut the way of being, or just some methodology?