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Being Truly Agile: The Method and the Mindset

Debbie Madden
Aug 19, 2014

Agile is often discussed as a methodology: a framework for developing software. At Stride, Agile isn’t just a process we apply to a software project; it’s how we approach both technology and business. It’s a way of thinking and behaving. It’s fundamental to what we do, both inside the code we write as well as inside all of our operational and strategic practices.

We’re thinking a lot about Agile as we gear up for the 5th Annual Agile Day NYC, the largest local annual gathering for Agile professionals. The conference, like others of its kind, brings together impassioned practitioners to discuss everything Agile. But what is it about Agile that unites people and evokes such passion?

At its core, it’s all about collaboration. It’s also about overall organizational improvements through increased revenue and efficiency. PayPal saw a 340% increase in revenue from their Agile transformation. Online retailer Zappos’ uses Agile to launch innovative new projects in a fraction of the time. Some federal government organizations are switching from a traditional waterfall approach and increasingly becoming Agile.

Over the past fourteen years, Agile itself has changed and adapted, as more and more companies implement the tools and processes that best fit their needs. The thing I love most about Agile is that it’s not a one size fits all recipe. It is, in fact, meant to be adopted fluidly, in the way that makes the most sense for the team. Companies that succeed at Agile learn to become comfortable with the idea that projects are fluid. The truth is, projects are always evolving, always changing. Agile teaches us that it’s important to have a vision of where you want to head, and to know what success looks like, as long as you are prepared to be wrong. Embracing change means course correcting at every sprint. It means changing your mind about which features are most important, and it means truly listening to feedback along the way. This has implications at every level of the organization, and requires an enormous amount of trust from company executives and accountability by those on the development team. This way of thinking, of adapting to the fluid nature of projects, is vital to business success. Approaching your business with this kind of mindset prevents you from being trapped on a rigid, inflexible path.

We’ve been living and practicing Agile since its inception in 2001. We have built Stride on a foundation of Agility based on the principles of the Agile Manifesto. Stride’s CTO Rex Madden and I were both early Agile adopters and have built and run successful companies for the past fourteen years by thinking, acting, and being Agile. We use Agile because it’s flexible, collaborative, efficient, cost-effective, and reliable. We use it because it works.

In fact, we used Scrum to plan for our Agile Day NYC 2014 sponsorship. The first thing we did was pull out a stack of index cards and start writing all the things we wanted to achieve as a sponsor. We listed maybe 30 things. And then, we prioritized the stories, estimated how long they’d take, and figured out which ones to work on first. We set up a weekly sprint planning session each Monday, to review our progress and re-prioritize. Now that we are a month away from Agile Day NYC 2014, I feel confident knowing that the most important stories will be done in time for the event. I also know that a handful of things didn’t make the cut, and that’s ok.

You can have the best idea and the best code, but if your process falls short, your product will too. Applying Agile to your process can help exponentially; however, if you aren’t thinking Agile, and you aren’t acting Agile, you won’t be doing due diligence by adding the Agile process alone. In order to succeed on every level, Agile should be interwoven in the fabric of a company’s culture. So take a step back. Are you approaching your business with flexibility? Is your organization open to fundamental change? Are you collaborating effectively with common goals in mind? Make sure your whole environment is as Agile as your processes, and your organization will truly reap the full benefits of the Agile way.


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