What is Agile?

A short answer is deceptively simple:

Agile is a set of practices and principles built around mindset aimed at allowing entities to flexibly adopt to evolving market reality.

A longer answer will require decomposing the sentence.

Set of practices and principles

Specific, actionable, and transferrable to every kind of complex work. Note that complex is not the same as complicated. For latter one, we can create a manual, including all possible options and branches of decision making. LEGO kits, IKEA furniture assembly, production line, construction – and so on. If you cannot predict all the options, it’s complex – like driving, flying, combat, programming, weight loss… Universal examples of practices and principles would be: “prioritize”, “visualize work”, “limit work in progress”, “shorten lead times”.

Built around mindset

Think of it as of philosophy – but not the modern, quirky and unnecessarily complex one. Do it the way ancient Greeks and Romans did. Their philosophers gave very practical and actionable advice. If you asked them “what should I do to make my life better?”, they wouldn’t go into endless debate, discussing every word of your question. They’d tell you: “wake up early”, “make up your bed”, “when you’re done eating, wash your bowl”. Which, by the way, are legitimate and possibly life changing advices.

Aimed at entities

As you probably figured out already, it’s not only about teams. And, surely, not only about software development. Entities means businesses, organizations, teams, even people themselves. Rules are universal, almost like laws of nature.

To flexibly adopt to evolving market reality

The way you worked one year ago is likely outdated right now, unless you’re into some retro activities, like blacksmithing. What your customers wanted one month ago, might’ve changed, for unlimited reasons – from weather to your competition. What was the most important goal for your entity one week ago, may already be secondary. Things inevitably change. The only thing about it that you can control, is how you react to it.

Remember!

Applying Agile can make it easier for you to make informed choice. It won’t make it for you, though – it’s not a silver bullet, despite how it’s often being sold.