Doing vs. Being Agile

20 Jun

Many teams believe they are Agile because they are following the prescribed Agile practices. E.g. A team may think they are Agile because they are doing daily stand up meetings, sprint planning meetings, retrospectives etc.


The mistake that teams often make is that they tend to treat these practices as ‘ceremonies’, thereby focusing more on getting the ‘ceremony’ done, and not so much on doing it right so as to derive the benefit that the practice is intended to provide. Take, for instance, daily stand up meetings. A team can be said to ‘be’ Agile if they can achieve the following benefits through these meetings:


  • Instilling a clear sense of purpose about what needs to get done
  • Focus on efficiently moving the work forward
  • Early identification of risks and blockers
  • Team members helping each other with share obstacles


However, many teams think they are Agile, just because they are ‘doing; stand up meetings, even when their stand up meetings are not delivering any of these benefits, or worse, have anti patterns.


Doing Agile practices does not translate into being Agile, unless there is focused effort put in by all team members to derive the intended benefits from that practice. Teams need to be conscious about why they are doing a practice and should aim to keep improving the maturity level of that practice.


To state in other words, treating Agile as a noun is futile. Teams are Agile only when they understand that Agile is an adjective and constantly work towards it and also adopt  the Agile mindset. The mindset change is required to make the transition from just ‘doing’ Agile to ‘being’ Agile.


3 Responses to “Doing vs. Being Agile”

  1. Pankaj Kanchankar (@pkanchankar) June 21, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Well said Sunil! And congratulations on your first blog!
    We come across this all the time, where doing Agile / Scrum is just another process with checklists and tasks to be completed in a particular way. No more people over processes 🙂

  2. Khushroo "KC" Cooper September 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Another aspect of Agile which is grossly missed and profusely bastardized is the story. I have come across numerous organizations that wave the Agile banner because of their development being story-based.

    Finally, a crucial part of all Lean methods is the concept of continuous improvement. Retrospectives conducted in a lot of these “Agile” organizations are purely ritualistic with no intention or moreover impetus for team improvement.

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