Agile with a capital “A” – what does it really mean?

Despite being around for nearly two decades, Agile (with a capital A) has more meanings and interpretations than ever. You might have heard it used to describe styles of leadership, a methodology for running meetings and even hot-desking. If you haven’t experienced this first-hand, the likelihood is that you have at least heard of an organisation “being agile” or “going agile”.

So, what does Agile mean and when did it all start?

In the early 90s, industry estimates suggested it would take an average of 3 years from creating a business case to delivering a software solution. This long lead-time meant that many projects were cancelled halfway through, or even worse; the project actually delivered something no longer fit for purpose.

Frustrated by this issue, and wanting a better way to build software, a group of industry leaders met in 2001 to discuss a new development method. Departing from the sequential waterfall model (which was inspired by manufacturing workflows and infrastructure projects), the new methodology would accommodate for new requirements throughout the delivery lifecycle. This would make software development more responsive to changing business needs, and allow for faster delivery cycles by reducing the length of the planning and design phases.

And so, in 2001, a group of industry leaders met, agreed and authored the Agile Manifesto. This Manifesto (supported by 12 principles) outlines 4 key values as the foundation for better software development. Naturally, things have continued to evolve, with the Manifesto paving the way for a new wave of Agile-inspired methodologies and practices valuing:

  1. Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools
  2. Working software over Comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over Following a plan

So, as project managers, what should our understanding of Agile be? Put simply, Agile is the umbrella term for the many Agile methods and frameworks (e.g. Scrum and varieties, DSDM, KanbanXP etc.) that are inspired by the Agile Manifesto and its key values and principles.

In the second part of this short series, we will explore whether Agile is right for your organisation and highlight some key differences to traditional project management approaches. Stay tuned!

What is your experience of Agile (or agile) to date? Have you considered implementing something similar in your organisation? Leave a comment – we would love to hear your thoughts on this.

You may also like...

Our little books

The Little Book of Project Management

A little book with plenty to say. We’re proud to share our Little Book of Project Management.
Download book

Case studies