Agile 101: The Complete Guide

Agile is a mindset that brings a unique approach to project management. Explore the Agile origins, its values, why, and how to use it to deliver faster with greater quality.

What Is Agile?

Agile is the philosophy behind the popular Agile project management approach. At the heart of Agile lies customer focus, adaptability, and continuous improvement. To achieve these, Agile encourages open communication, feedback exchange, and constant knowledge sharing through collaboration.

The Agile approach was officially set forward through the Agile Мanifesto. The Manifesto represents 4 core values and 12 principles, which today are the building blocks for the Agile way of managing projects. Initially built out of necessity to deliver value in the software development industry, different aspects of Agile now find a place in virtually every domain.

what is AgileAgile Manifesto core values

Whether used in the context of software development or other project management, Agile proclaims the same values: adaptation, collaboration, people, and trust. You will explore methodologies and frameworks which employ these Agile values. Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, or XP are among the most popular and widely used approaches to help companies create an Agile work environment. 

Agile vs. Traditional Project Management

Collaboration is the key distinguishing factor between managing a project with an Agile mind and using the traditional project management approach. The Agile philosophy promotes collective input from collaborators, partners, and customers to achieve its goals: deliver faster high-quality value, improve customer satisfaction, and build a company culture of continuous improvement.

This collaboration is encouraged through cross-functional, self-organizing, and openly communicating teams in Аgile project management. Unlike the traditional approach, Agile teams produce small deliverables more frequently and seek feedback to adapt swiftly to changing customer requirements.

self-organizing Agile teamsSelf-organizing Agile teams

Engaging in regular work review cycles is an intrinsic element of what Agile is. It’s how you improve even while the project is still ongoing. Delivering small batches of working solutions opens up feedback loops that teams use to improve. Implementing those improvements continuously helps to create an environment where the focus shifts to producing customer outcomes instead of just outputs.

What Isn’t Agile?

There are a few misconceptions about Agile that the growing Agile community is still facing to this day.

Agile Is Not a Methodology.

As discussed, Agile represents an ability to adapt to the changing business environment, deliver high customer value more frequently, and encourage collaboration.

First and foremost, Agile is a mindset. Thanks to its universal values and principles it proclaims, the Agile way of thinking serves as the basis of the Agile methods and frameworks we all use today - Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, and many more.

Agile Does Not Apply to Software Development Only.

As customer requirements changed rapidly, software engineers were the first to face the need to adapt quickly. However, Agile is nowadays contributing to the successful management of knowledge work projects in engineering, pharma, aerospace, and many more industries, markets, and companies of all sizes.

Furthermore, scaling Agile on a global level proved to help organizations in their missions to adapt to the market, drive innovation, or gain a competitive edge. In other words, the Agile mindset is a founding step toward business agility, and there are multiple examples of how companies are building true Agile organizations.

Agile Is Not Scrum.

Agile is not Scrum, Kanban, or any other method or framework, for that matter. There’s a false narrative that every Scrum team does agile project management. While that may be true for many, it is not for numerous others.

Agile and Scrum are very different in nature. Agile lays the ground for popular frameworks such as Scrum to flourish. However, simply sticking to a prescriptive framework and implying rules is far from what it means to manage projects in an Agile way.

Why Agile?

We can speculate a lot about the advantages of Agile as a philosophy for achieving business agility. However, in the last decade, we have seen a massive shift in many industries, from traditional project management to Agile project management.

A leading reason for adopting Agile practices is the enhanced ability to manage changing priorities in unpredictable markets.

“Why Agile” is not a one-sentence explanation. Agile must be well-understood and vastly welcomed on all levels within your organization. 

For years, we’ve been helping companies of all sizes to adopt agility through building transparency, optimizing processes, and connecting strategy with execution. We are happy to share that experience with you through the following pages!