I see people still struggling with the concept of agile. Struggling with what it actually is. I see people implementing it as if it is a process or procedure, resulting in mechanical, lifeless structures. So, what is agile?

Agile is not only a working process. Agile is broader than that, it is a definition that defines mindsets, behavior and organizational culture. You cannot implement it, since it defines something that cannot be created:

You don’t create a culture. Culture happens. It is the by-product of consistent behaviour. Real cultures are built over time. They are the result of action, reaction, and truth. They are nuanced, beautiful, and authentic. Real culture is patina.

J. Fried

According to Slack’s Engineering Chief of Staff Nolan Caudill, culture is

Culture – which we understand to mean the systems that dictate how employees relate to one another, the work to be done, and the customers (…)

You can become agile. You can not do agile. Doing agile is pretending. Resulting in the lifeless mechanical structures that I mentioned before. In order to become agile, we need to alter our context in such a way that characteristics and behaviors arise that are fundamental to agile.

We can alter context by:

  • setting expectations
  • recognizing, amplifying, and rewarding
  • demonstrating through the choices that we make, the questions that we ask
  • demonstrating through our own behavior
  • showing how decisions are made, and changing that if needed
  • deciding who to hire

And by doing so we become leaders in the service of the organization.

Bringing the right behavior to light and bringing agile to life was done at Pinterest as follows:


“At Pinterest we bring agility to life at an organizational and individual level through a focus on velocity and flexibility. ‘Organizational velocity’ is about how we can create the conditions necessary to increase velocity. (…) We create the conditions for flexibility through strong shared values that help guide how employees approach and complete their work.”

J Fried source
Slack source
Pinterest source



One thought on “What is agile?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s