On the Agile Mentoring Slack group, Jack Caine and I were discussing what it means to be Agile. I wound up writing something like this, and wanted to share it more broadly.

Agile Software Development was created, primarily, as an approach for teams of people to work directly with people who needed software solutions to their concerns, to collaborate and jointly create those solutions, in a more effective, more joyful way. There are surely some common elements that can apply up at the C-level, over in the product management group, down in the shipping room, and so on. Even the Authors of the Manifesto had focus up, down, and around the organization, though I would say that the biggest focus was probably the individual team.

Maybe that was just my focus but it seems to me that Kent and Ward and Ken and Jeff and Jon and James and Andy and Bob and Brian and Dave were pretty much all on that team wavelength. That doesn’t make the team focus right, it’s just who we were. However, that’s mostly what we were concerned about. Now Alistair had some larger focus, as did Arie. Jim was always about the enterprise, as so was Mike. So, it’s not like it’s somehow “wrong” to focus on the large enterprise.

However, if a large enterprise is to be “Agile”, it won’t be because you can pick out words in slides that some of the students may have been paying attention to when the slides were shown in some class, and then associate those words with something the Authors believe, or with something they wrote.

If an enterprise is to be “Agile”, you have to be able to look into that enterprise, and everywhere you look, see the Manifesto values in operation, see the Manifesto principles in operation. More importantly – and much harder to do – you have to be able to see, to sense, to find, similar ideas, notions, and attitudes to those of those men in that room at that time, and those men in whatever rooms they’re in now, and of the many men and women who followed immediately upon them and began to suss out, and fill out, what those old guys were talking about.

“Agile” is not a work of logic. “Agile” is not something you can do with check boxes. “Agile” is a work of the heart. It is a work of informed intuition. We can and do reason about it, trying to understand it.

But “Agile” is trying to grapple with the most complex of situations, the interplay of human beings with their disparate goals and understandings, all trying to come together to build something.

“Agile” is not checklists, logic, and slides. It is improvisation. It is jazz. It is art.