In our professional world of software development, it is very common someone asking “What is this Agile?” And I have heard people debating on the definition of Agile using heavy weight words like it’s a mindset, it’s a culture, way of leadership, methodology, manifesto, group of practices etc. Nothing wrong with these definitions, they are all good but a bit difficult to explain to someone who is new to this concept.
I was thinking about how to explain Agile to someone so I took Google’s help. The very first search item says “able to move quickly and easily”. Then I searched the Cambridge dictionary and it says
Agile (physically) – ability to move quickly and easily
Agile (mentally) – ability to think quickly and clearly
After researching other sources, I have come up with a definition and need your input on it.
The definition of Agile is – How fit you are – physically, mentally or any other way
Agility is not limited to a team or organization in professional world, but it is for us as a human being in our personal life.
As a human being, if you are physical fit then you will be able to move quickly and easily. If you are mentally fit, then you will be able to think quickly, clearly and innovatively.
Same is applicable in professional world. How fit a team or organization is? Are they able to move quickly i.e. change direction as per new learning, adapt as per the new circumstances? Are they able to move quickly and easily in changing their plans as per the customer and stakeholder’s requirement? Are they able to think quickly while working in the complex environment? Do they have better clarity in their thought process as compared to their peers and competitors?
So, the next time when someone asks you – “Is your team/organization agile?”. Please do understand that they are asking “Is your team/organization physically and mentally fit to move and think quickly, easily and clearly to meet customer requirements in this ever-changing environment?”
Getting fit is not a mandate but not getting fit has its own consequences – personally and professionally, both. For a better and healthy life, you should be fit. BTW as per a study “Most of the people would rather die than changing their habits for a better health and a better life”. Similarly, organizations would rather lose to their competitors than changing their working habits.
The other observation I have is people using Agile and Scrum interchangeably which may not be correct. If Agile is about fitness then Scrum is about how to get fit. In your personal life, for getting fit, you do yoga, jogging, swimming, dance, gym and other activities. Similarly, to get fit, teams and organization can do Scrum, Kanban, Pair programming, TDD etc. Though Scrum is the most often used way to get fit by teams and organizations.
Finally, the golden question – how to measure your agility? It should be re-phrased to “how to measure your fitness?” I do jogging and swimming, so I measure how many rounds/laps I can do and timing for each. I keep comparing my new timing with previous. Similarly, a team/organization should also measure “how quickly and easily, it is able to move as per the new circumstances, how quickly and clearly you are able to come up with solution for your customer, employees and stakeholders’ requirements.”
So, are you fit? What do you do to get fit? And what is your fitness level?
I hope this helps.
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