Agile is not a methodology, it's a mindset !

Geert Bossuyt

There are many misunderstandings about Agile and what it is or is not.
I’ve met some people who were really convinced that ‘Agile’ and ‘Scrum’ are like synonyms. Or who think ‘Agile’ is a synonym for ‘flexible’.

Both are not true. If Agile would have just been about flexibility or responsiveness, I suppose they would have called it ‘The Manifesto of Responsiveness’ or something like that. However they didn’t so there must be more to it than just the Responsiveness.

Agile is a mindset. A set of principles to guide you in the choices you make.

The Agile Manifesto contains 4 values, a footnote and 12 principles. The 12 principles can be read ( or used ) as a clarification of the 4 values, i.e. some extra guidance to better understand what it means. Although these principles focus on software development, ‘Agile’ is not a software development methodology. To say that ‘Scrum’ and ‘Agile’ are synonyms is like saying ‘beautiful’ and ‘woman’ are synonyms. Most women are beautiful but not all that is beautiful is a woman. Equally, most Scrum implementations are Agile, but not all that is Agile is Scrum.

The english word ‘agile’ is synonym to the word ‘flexible’. Therefore, a common misunderstanding is that you should be as flexible as water to be ‘agile’. Examples of this misunderstanding are

  • “My product owner is too Agile. He changes his mind every 4 days. So we’re not getting any work done. Pffff. We’re too Agile. It doesn’t work.” or
  • “What do you mean you can’t work tonight. You call yourself Agile. So be Agile tonight !”.

If the Agile Manifesto would have been about flexibility only, the fourth line would have been enough : ‘we value respond to change over follow a plan’.
Since there are 4 lines in the Manifesto ( and not just one), it must be about more than just flexibility.

The Agile Manifesto is a guide. It gives you an indication of what is really important and what is less important. In the left ‘column’ you find the things that are really important! ‘Agile’ is a mindset of finding the items at the left of the Manifesto more important than those at the right, and to act accordingly.
When you do this you will see that Interaction between people to deliver working software in close collaboration with the customer delivers good and early feedback, which leads to adapting the plan if needed. ( Quote from the circle of agility )

Comments (3)

  1. Abhishek Agrawal - Reply

    June 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    “What do you mean you can’t work tonight. You call yourself Agile. So be Agile tonight !”.
    “My product owner is too Agile. He changes his mind every 4 days.

    :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

    Amazing way to put it!

    Great post!

  2. Celso Martins - Reply

    June 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Abhishek Agrawal, I think, his goal was ilustrate that Agile is not a synonym of flexible.

    Geert, very good and direct text.

    Regards

  3. zenithch600 - Reply

    November 8, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    The definition of a methodology is: the methods or organizing principles underlying a particular art, science, or other area of study

    Based on the definition of methodology and the very fact that the Agile Manefesto was developed from a set of 12 core principles that the founding fathers could agree upon seems to suggest that yes, it is a methodology. A methodology does not have to be perscribed. A methodology can simploy be the principles underlying a particular science…

    Seems like a lot of fuss over nothing.

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