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The real definition of agile and why so many companies get it wrong

If you hear the word “agile” it has different meanings for different people. Sadly in the industry, this has led to large disagreements and misunderstandings.

Some people think it is a project management methodology (it isn’t by the way, despite what a certain dictionary definition tells you, yes dictionaries can get things wrong too).

Some people think they can make their company “agile” by following a series of meetings, e.g. daily stand-up meetings, (this doesn’t make you agile either).

The best definition of agile comes from the Merriam Webster Dictionary.

Definition of agile (adjective)

1. marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace

2. having a quick resourceful and adaptable character

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Now there is a set of methodologies that fall under the banner of “Agile” (the noun) that was born after the creation of The Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

The noun and the verb are used interchangeably and have caused a lot of confusion for companies and individuals, with bosses declaring “we must be agile”, “roll out agile”, and “we’re an agile company!”.

I recently was fortunate to interview Joshua Kerievsky on my new podcast “Rebel Diaries”, Josh is the founder and CEO of Industrial Logic, one of the oldest and most well-respected agile consultancies on the planet.

He created something called Modern Agile which is based on four simple principles. It allows companies to use these principles to aid with decision making, empower teams, understand customer needs, become high performing and highly competitive and much more.

In the show we discuss:

  • Why Agile is not project management 
  • The four Modern Agile principles and how all teams and companies can benefit
  • The challenges of scaling Agile and why it often goes wrong
  • How psychological safety enables high team performance
  • and much more… 

Here’s a video clip from the episode (links to the full episode below)

To listen to the show you can find it on Apple Podcasts .

Alternatively, if you’d prefer Spotify link below.

Finally, you can listen directly from the show’s website.

Posted in: Agile , Product Management and Ownership , Teams and Teamwork , Wellbeing