As it usually happens with words and concepts that have at some point become fashionable, the word “agile” has been so extraordinarily overused lately that its true meaning seems to have been lost.
These days, “agile” is in everybody’s mouth - and webpage, and social media, and blog post. So, if you have read at least a few of the thousands of articles that explain how to go agile and why a certain company is agile and why it is so important to become agile, let me begin by assuring that this is not the approach I will pursue here. Instead, I will make an attempt at dismantling some of the most frequent mistakes and common places that we encounter around the concept of agile, and then try to seek a more authentic understanding of what exactly agility means.
Shifting our perspective: from method to philosophy
Now, the reasons for agile to be so fashionable these days are not hard to grasp at all. We live in a world in constant change that seems to move faster and faster every year. Paradigms become obsolete overnight. Mindsets, ideas, and strategies that may have been useful for us in the recent past are now preventing us from moving forward, or even dragging us down. So, the aim of agile is to inspire us with the type of drive for constant adaptation that we need to thrive in this ever-changing context.
This is why conceiving agile as a “methodology”, as is usually the case, is misleading. The problem with this is that it creates the illusion that agility can be achieved in a definitive manner by simply executing some ceremonies, implementing some processes, or even using some buzzwords. But this is not the case. Agile can be defined as something much simpler than a methodology - and at the same time much more challenging: essentially, it’s about a decision. But a decision that is not followed by an urge for undertaking immediate actions for transformation, but by the will to do something much more profound: to radically change the way we see things. To boldly embrace a shift in our perspective. To adopt, in a word, a new philosophy.
Agile is no Conventional Journey
Another concept that we usually encounter alongside agile is “transformation”. But we can see how this concept implicitly emphasizes two ideas that really drift away from the essence of agility.
The first one is the idea that by undertaking a certain action, or a certain set of actions that are supposed to transform us, we can ultimately achieve something called “agility”. This overlooks the fact that every action we undertake, even the most apparently trivial and inconsequential, is always preceded by a certain mindset, by a general understanding of the world we live in, the nature of our particular activity, and the specific goals of that action.
The second misleading idea implied in the word “transformation” is the illusion that you can “become agile” by passing from one state to another, by shifting from a current form to a future, more effective, more “agile” form. But agile doesn’t define the state or the form of an organization. Rather than this, it’s the type of mindset that allows an organization to make constant, firm decisions that aim at adapting to constantly changing conditions.
Simply ask yourself: Why?
With so many confusing ideas about what it means to be agile, it is no surprise that lots of people end up feeling uncertain about their own efforts to gain agility, and others feel frustrated about their experiences trying to introduce “agile methodologies”. Well, what we think you should do in this case is, instead of moving endlessly forward with new allegedly “agile” initiatives, take a step back and ask yourself: Why? Why do I want to be agile? The fact that lots of companies that declare their goal to be agile have no solid answer for this question may be surprising, but it is actually reasonable when you think about the consequences of anything becoming fashionable.
As said, agile tackles the issue of needing to adapt in a world that is constantly changing. When we try to approach new problems and new challenges with traditional methods, the result is wasted time, pointless effort, and frustration. In a world where expectations and demands are being permanently revised and challenged, predicting with precision what will happen in the next, 2, 3, 5 years is utterly impossible. So what we need is to develop a mindset that is flexible enough for us to adapt to this uncertainty. That is agile culture. That is the philosophy that inspires agile organizations.
Now, we have more or less displayed the main ideas that we believe define what an agile culture is. But the problem is, even when agile may be easy to explain and understand, it is much more difficult to implement. Being currently a fashionable concept, it is no surprise that the web is flooded with simplistic, seemingly straightforward instructions to become agile. But as we said, it is misleading to pretend that agile can be reduced to a set of tools, a framework, or a series of meetings. This is basically a superficial approach that ignores the fact that agile is about a change at the core of an organization itself, a change that permeates each and every one of its aspects.
Why we strive for agility
But the questions that we have posed here may well be directed to ourselves. Why does Revolt want to be agile? Well, mainly because we know that agility gives us the opportunity to deliver more business value to our clients by building meaningful and lasting products. And we believe that there is a Revolt way of achieving this that precedes any “method”. Disruption, openness, out-of-the-box thinking, these are the things that define us and the things that make us Revolt. We are not afraid of experimenting, of going beyond our boundaries and learning from our mistakes. We believe in constant learning and in teamwork. We believe that journeys are more important than destinations. We strive for excellence but we recognize that this is a quest that never really comes to an end. We are always eager to question our way of doing things, to find new and better ways to approach projects. And this is why our culture and our mindset perfectly harmonize with the essence of being agile.
Blogpost written By: Belén Piñeyro