Being Agile vs. doing Agile – what’s the difference?

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This post is from Easy Agile, an Agile2022 Title Sponsor.

Organizations around the world have recognized the need to respond rapidly to meet the challenges of constant change. As a result, companies of all sizes are racing to adopt Agile ways of working, with the pandemic accelerating Agile adoption.

Those who get it right can make a powerful impact on their bottom line and their competitive edge. But for others, the benefits are yet to be seen.

This is where ‘being Agile’ versus ‘doing Agile’ can make all the difference. Because to truly reap the benefits of Agile methodology, organizations need to shift from ‘doing’ to ‘being.’

What does it mean to be Agile?

Many organizations incorporate Agile processes to manage projects. But that doesn’t mean teams have fully understood and embraced the Agile methodology. It could be that they’re ‘doing Agile’ rather than actually ‘being Agile.’

Doing Agile

‘Doing Agile’ is the misconception that if you do Agile things, your company will become Agile and responsive to change. Organizations that have fallen into this trap may go through the motions of some Agile processes, such as daily stand-ups, sprints, and retrospectives. Teams are structured to be small, cross-functional, and collaborative. But by stopping there, those teams don’t become truly Agile, and they may struggle to see results.

While Agile ceremonies, tools, and structures are critical in implementation, they are only part of what makes an organization Agile.

Being Agile

‘Being Agile’ means you incorporate the above activities but go beyond the processes. This means applying an Agile mindset and Agile values to all areas of the organization. Teams will need the training to master the Agile mindset and push through any challenges along the way. It takes more time and effort than simply doing Agile, but it’s critical if you want to reap the benefits.

What’s an Agile mindset?

Embracing the Agile mindset means understanding and living its four core values. To be Agile, you need to:

  1. Respect people – Recognize that people are critical to the success of your organization. Ensure people share common goals, feel safe and empowered to share ideas, and adopt a ‘we’ versus ‘I’ mentality.
  2. Optimize flow – Build in quality at each increment so you can identify issues and course-correct early. This helps maximize value and minimize waste while creating a consistent, sustainable workflow.
  3. Encourage innovation – Foster experimentation with collaboration, constructive feedback, and autonomy. Schedule time and space for creativity and ideas to flow
  4. Relentlessly improve – Keep in mind that there is no endpoint with the Agile mindset. It’s about continuous improvement, so you need to continually reflect and improve future processes as part of an ongoing practice.

To take these values and make them the foundation of working across your organization, you need to combine Agile processes with an Agile mindset. Without the Agile mindset, you’re not ‘being Agile,’ and your processes won’t deliver your organization’s full potential.

Agile processes and tools aren’t enough

Agile processes, including the ceremonies, tools, and apps, support the team’s mindset. But without getting the mindset right across your organization, you won’t truly be Agile.

Fostering the Agile mindset gives an organization the ability to rapidly move in any given direction at any given time to deliver the best value to customers. Teams who’ve mastered Agile are usually:

  • Autonomous and empowered to make decisions around the project and customer experience
  • Able to adapt to change quickly
  • Always willing to learn something new
  • Engaged with a shared purpose and collaborative culture.

Are you ready to be Agile?

Moving beyond Agile processes to scale an Agile mindset across an organization isn’t something you can tackle overnight. It takes time, effort, training, and leadership support to integrate Agile values and move beyond the command mindset of the past.

You may face challenges along the way. You’ll discover there’s always more to learn, and you must be Agile in your adoption of Agile.

But the prize for true Agility is significant, including increasing customer satisfaction, boosting employee engagement, and improving productivity – making it well worth the investment.

Agility helps modern organizations thrive through change in an uncertain and unpredictable world. For most of us, it’s no longer a desirable way of working, it’s essential.

This article was originally posted on the Easy Agile blog.


About the Author

Hayley is an accomplished marketing and communications professional passionate about building strong brands and delivering and communicating value through creative strategies that guide marketing activities. Currently, she is Partner Manager at Easy Agile, where she connects with Atlassian partners and cultivates effective relationships to deliver value.

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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