Before we dive into the many benefits of the various Agile methodologies, let’s take a moment to define what it means to be Agile. It’s worth clarifying, because there is a difference between Agile (the methodology) and business agility (the term that describes organizations that are able to maintain stability while rapidly responding to internal and external changes). The term “business agility” can also be used to describe scaling Agile outside of IT.
You can be (lowercase) agile without being Agile, and you can technically be practicing Agile without truly experiencing agility.
First, let’s define agile plainly. Dictionary.com defines agility (of any kind) as, “…the power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness,” with this secondary definition: “the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity.”
Meanwhile, the (uppercase) Agile methodology describes the specific set of practices, values, and beliefs that aim to enable business agility. We like to use the definition of business agility created by researchers of McKinsey & Company, who defined the term as “…the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities…”
To add to the fun, not all organizations practicing Agile will refer to it by this name. There are many Agile methodologies (or methodologies that closely align with Agile principles) that go by other names: Lean, Kanban, Scrum, and Scrumban, among others. Since Agile is typically considered to be a team-level practice, there are also additional techniques and frameworks (built upon some of these methodologies) designed specifically for scaling Agile across the enterprise, such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®), Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DaD), Scrum@Scale, and others.
So, to summarize: The purpose of implementing any Agile methodology is to increase your business’ agility. It’s how you go about trying to achieve agility that determines whether or not you are practicing Agile. There are many methodologies that could be considered Agile methodologies, as well as many frameworks that can be utilized to effectively scale Agile across organizations.