“Agility, scrum, lean” are terms that have grown massively popular, especially with teams working near the SDLC (software development life cycle) process, manufacturing, advertisement, or anywhere you need speed and productivity really. Sometimes they’re adapted fully, and sometimes semi, however…

This is the new age of delivering with trust and commitment, where each individual feels responsible for their impact and how it affects their team. But not only that, the product in itself (be it a saas, a campaign, a brand book etc), is up to date with whatever the market needs real-time, due to its iterative approach.

But why? How come agility as a methodology has become so popular and massively adopted?

Even though many ideas on it surfaced first around the 1970s, Agile was formally launched in 2001 when 17 technologists drafted the Agile Manifesto. They wrote four major principles for agile project management, with the goal of developing better software:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

Since then, we’ve seen various types of adaptations from teams all over the world, but with the same fundamentals in mind.

One of the best analogies for working in an agile project would be: fitness and trying to get in shape. Yes, hear me out.

So you have this huge goal in front of you, which may be getting slimmer and losing weight, or perhaps gaining muscles, basically a healthier body. Now, you won’t immediately know all the details about your workout plan and diet, but through small steps, you’ll give them shape in order to achieve the vision. 

Let’s say you finally made some decisions and set some standards in your approach. Do you think any trainer would recommend going “all in” from the very beginning? Of course not. Steps and smaller builds.

You won’t rush towards those big weights when your body and muscles aren’t used to doing 10 pushups. Can’t have a 6pack without building a 2pack first.

But wait…

What if some time has passed and you see no progress in your diet plan? Rice, instead of working as a weight-loss option only bloats you up. A certain exercise isn’t doing much anymore. Do you continue with the initial plan because it was set out? No, you listen to your body and adapt. You make changes quickly, see how they affect your progress, and learn from experience.

Now, not only have you understood how to approach fitness, but also some of the fundamentals of agility. 

Your body is the project that needs to be delivered. In the beginning, all the nitty-gritty details of what a certain feature will look like in the app are unknown. But, you do know the bigger picture of what the user needs, so your user stories.

Which means small, but consumable increments. 

You can’t just take on the work and set out a specific road and stick to it through the end without any change. That’s the waterfall methodology, which is way outdated and brings me to the next analogy:

You are the project owner or manager. And the organs are your team. You have to listen to each other. What does the team need in order to accomplish the work? What is something that isn’t working and getting them stuck in the process of being innovative? Your team needs the synergy to be in top form (just like your body hopefully) because agile calls for collaborative cross-functional teams.

When it comes to methodologies, there’s no cookie-cutter, one size fits all approach to every project. That’s because teams work and operate differently, so agility needs to work for them, not against.

The articles, documentation and trainings on Agile are endless. The frameworks that people use to implement it like Scrum or Kanban don’t fall that short behind as well. But unless you fully grasp the value behind the methodology, none of that actually matters.