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May 9, 2022

Introduction to Agility

Agility, Kanban, Scrum -- what does it all mean? These terms can be incredibly disorienting when you find yourself diving into the world of working Agile for the first time in your life. But fortunately, learning about Agile doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. In fact, when you break these terms down into their simplest form, they prove to be part of a straightforward methodology on the most productive manner of working in a collaborative environment: Agile.

The Agile Manifesto

When Agile was first created by a team of engineers in the Silicon Valley 20 years ago, it was accompanied by a manifesto -- a statement that described exactly what made the Agile methodology different from other methodologies. The manifesto includes a number of propositions, such as that individuals and interactions are valued over processes and tools, a working product is valued over comprehensive documentation, and customer collaboration is valued over contract negotiation. People are sometimes quick to judge the topics addressed by this manifesto, citing the extensive value processes, tools, comprehensive documentation, and contract negotiation -- all things that the Agile manifesto seems to dismiss. However, the point of the Agile methodology is to highlight that while these notions are indeed important, the greater importance lies with individuals, interactions, a working product, and customer collaboration. A business that fails to prioritize these is depriving itself of success.

An Agile structure is predominantly flat as opposed to hierarchical, with communication and openness being prioritized over prestigious titles and predetermined roles.

Agile vs. Corporate Environment

The primary difference between working in an Agile environment versus a standard corporate environment lies within the organizational structure. The typical corporate environment includes a strict hierarchical division, with a senior manager, department head, junior team members, etc. Each individual is responsible for their own specific set of tasks, rarely extending their responsibilities to encompass work outside of their predetermined role. There is a strict division between senior, medior, and junior staff, and these distinctions are acknowledged by everyone within the organization.

The Agile methodology aims to abandon this strict hierarchical structure. When you’re working Agile, you’re working in a flat organization. While individuals still maintain their titles, and each team member will continue to naturally exhibit their own strengths and weaknesses, there is significantly more overlap in the Agile work environment in terms of responsibilities. All in all, an Agile structure is predominantly flat as opposed to hierarchical, with communication and openness being prioritized over prestigious titles and predetermined roles.

Getting Started In an Agile Environment

The first thing you will want to do when you start working as part of an Agile team is to define terms and acceptance criteria. What constitutes a job as “done”? What does it mean for work to still be “in progress”? Both of these questions and more are what you and your team need to address right from the beginning. This approach ensures that when you start moving your goals and projects from “To do” to “Doing” to “Done”, everyone will have a set definition of what constitutes a task in each of these categories.

Once you have defined terms and acceptance criteria, you will want to visualize your goals by putting them in a Kanban (Japanese for “sign board”). Creating this visual helps you and your team see precisely what work has been finished, what work is in progress, and what still needs to be done.

To take things a step further, it’s important to note that working in an Agile environment requires a familiarity with Scrum. “Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value,” (Scrum 2021). The goal of Scrum is to keep things simple, avoiding over-complicating the collaborative work environment. Working in a Scrum team includes having a daily meeting to discuss progress (Daily Standup/Daily Scrum), planning and deploying projects over short periods of time (Sprints), ensuring deliverables at the end of each sprint (Increment), working with a to-do list of planned projects (Backlog), and having a dedicated person in charge of keeping the process going to deliver maximum quality to the customer (Product Owner). The Scrum system ensures order and consistency without over-complication.

The Perfect Agile Training to Fit Your Needs

The Agile fundamentals are integral aspects of the trainings that we offer at Gladwell Academy in order to help you and your business excel and grow in the competitive Digital Age. Our goal is to ensure that you have access to everything you need -- not only to our extensive training sessions, but also to resources that help you understand which particular training is most suited to fit your personal needs. From Professional Scrum Product Owner, to Agile Coach Bootcamp, to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) for RTEs, and everything in between -- we have it all. Read our Training Overview to get started today on your Agile journey to success.

Written by Gladwell Academy, but most of our content is created by trainers and partnering experts!