Agility – or being agile – describes the ability of an organisation to respond effectively to change.
What is agile?
An organisation optimised to be agile will be able to consistently overcome complex challenges.This applies to much more than the rapid advances in software development. The Agile Manifesto was the game changer in founding this approach: in 2001, it used the word “agile” to describe a series of values and principles for the first time. These values have since been translated to numerous product and service domains and for entire companies. We have formulated the Scaled Agile Lean Development Prinzipien (ScALeD) to better outline agile values in the context of scaled product development.
What is agile project management?
An organisation hoping to become more agile must continuously work to refine itself. As a result, budgeting, commissioning, planning and coordination all require a different approach or significant adjustments.
The aim of a project is to achieve a pre-defined goal using the agreed resources and within a target timeframe. A product, on the other hand, has no clearly defined endpoint. In most cases, projects are actually investments in the development of a product or service. Consequently, the goal of agile product development is to repeatedly make the best possible decisions to maximise value for the customer. Project frameworks are usually too large and inflexible to achieve this. The best option is to create one or several self-managing teams. The development process is directed by a flow of requirements, optimised according to their value. In Scrum, the product owner takes responsibility for ensuring this happens. In an agile approach, therefore, project management is not a centralised task for one or more project managers; instead, it is decentralised and happens in each Scrum team.
What is the connection between agile methods and Scrum?
The overarching term “agile” simply means “in harmony with the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto”. Not every company that claims to be “agile” has actually embraced this message – far from it, in fact. There are a whole host of practices, methods and process frameworks that are not agile, despite claiming to be just that.
It was only later on that the term “agile” took hold as a description for a series of practices and frameworks already implemented in all manner of companies. In addition to Scrum, such practices include eXtreme Programming (or XP for short). This led to the creation of the Agile Manifesto in 2001. Scrum was outlined for the first time in 1995.
Scrum offers a basic framework from which to learn and improve genuinely agile working. What’s more, Scrum is simple enough that it can be easily understood – and also brings with it all aspects of agility. Scrum’s key strength is that it doesn’t specify which agile practices and methods should be used beyond the basic framework. Provided that an agile practice is broadly in keeping with the Scrum framework, it will be very easy to integrate in Scrum. This is true, for example, for all XP practices.
How can a company become agile?
Organisations cannot optimise themselves and become agile overnight. Instead, they need a framework or structure that compels them to adopt and uphold agile values. Scrum is the most well understood and widespread framework to facilitate this. It is based on the knowledge that culture follows structure.