Agile Manifesto – the big misunderstanding

In conversations with organisations, we often see a big misunderstanding of agile. The key problem is, that organisations understand it as a process to improve the software they poduce. It seems logical, as the Agile Manifesto is a set of values and principles originating from the software development movement. But agile is more. In order to understand that, let us explain, why software developers created the agile manifesto initially.

The Agile Manifesto helps to understand complexity

As we know, the world is more complex with every day. Changes happen faster from day to day. Agility is a way of creating software empirically. Instead of predicting the future, teams learn why, what and how they need to do something while they go along. Therefore agility is a concept of reducing complexity by breaking down large works into small manageable units. In the most important and popular frameworks Scrum, Holacracy or Kanban, this concept revisited. Organisations make sense of a complex environment by making the future as predictable as possible.

The Agile Manifesto is not about software

But not only software developers experience uncertainty. As we learnt from the brilliant and oscar-nominated movie The Big Short, the financial crisis was foreseen by only a few people. Nevertheless, billions of US Dollars were burn only within a few months. And additionally once market leaders such as NOKIA or Kodak went bankrupt quickly.

Traditionally organisations handle change management as a one-off project. We believe, that organisations need to change that concept to a constant change management system. And here is where the Agile Manifesto comes in very helpful: With it’s values and principles it gives the right foundations to achieve such an environment. If I would need to explain, how to translate the 4 values into one word, I would use the word “learning”:

  • Learning with the team: “Individuals & Interactions over processes & tools”
  • Learning with your product: “Working Software over comprehensive documentation”
  • Learning with your market: “Customer Collaboration over Contract negotiation”
  • Learning from your environment: “Responding to change over following a plan”

The Agile Manifesto is about adaption

To keep learning, you do not need to be a software organisation. You need to be adaptive as you go along in order to be able to respond to it. Successful organisation were able to create an environment, which is based on the 4 values of the Agile manifesto, without being a software development company. They created an environment – sometimes even long before the agile manifesto was formulated – in which they constantly adapt to the market challenges and therefore stay more relevant even in today’s markets.


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