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What Is Agile?

Many companies claim to be agile. If you look at their practices, a lot of them are pretty far from what most would consider ideal. Where do you draw the line? What threshold do you have to cross to claim agility?

Part of the issue is in the definition of agile. Agile is a bit fuzzy as to what is and isn't. Does it require iterations? No, Kanban is agile. Collaborating on priorities? Doing things in small, fully working chunks? Striving for tight feedback loops? Avoiding hand offs? To what degree? Perhaps the best definition is to go to the source.

When people say that they're agile, my mind jumps to comparing where they are versus what I think of as ideal (given their situation). I imply that their statement means that they've reached at least a certain amount of proficiency. But, on thinking about this more, I don't think that's the right way to think about it.

Rather, to be agile is to acknowledge a quest towards agility. Inevitably there are compromises. Few organizations are ready to start far down the path. The key is to consider issues as temporary road blocks and not to accept them as permanent limitations. But even as you work through these, you never get to the end. Because to do so is to stagnate and to stop adapting to the changing world.

So if you claim to be agile, you're claiming that you agree with the agile values and that you're moving in that direction.

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