I recently saw probably the best description of agile I have ever seen, from PMNetwork, the magazine of the Project Management Institute. The article discusses the agile movement 10 years after the signing of the Agile Manifesto, and interviewed four of the signatories in order to get an informed perspective.
In response to a question about agile outside of software, Ron Jeffries supplied the following answer:
The key ideas apply everywhere. These include, but are not limited to:
- Putting people with needs in direct contact with people who can fulfill those needs
- Populating projects with all the needed people and capabilities to get the job done
- Building work incrementally and checking results as you go
- Preparing for and influencing the future but not predicting it
- Making tasks concrete and quickly finishing them
- Giving people work to do and the knowledge to do it, not pushing them around like pawns on a chessboard
- Focusing on providing value frequently and rapidly, not directly on cost
Agile ideas are based on how people and organizations work best. There are specialized details we need to know regarding software, just as there are in any other domain. The principles, however, are broadly applicable. (PM Network April 2012 Volume 26, Number 4 p.61)
When I first saw this list, I thought this is a great way to describe agile outside of a software context. Then I looked at it again, and I realized these are good things to do on any project, regardless of approach.
It supports my hope that someday the word “agile” will no longer be necessary. These are key ideas that every project should use and shouldn’t need a modifier to differentiate them from other collections of ideas.
Even though I suggest via the Context Leadership Model that you want to handle projects differently based on their uncertainty and complexity, I can’t think of any case where you wouldn’t use the above collection of ideas in order to be successful.
Said another way these are not just agile ideas, these are good ideas to use on any project if you want to be successful.