What is Agile and why it is for everyone, including you

Tan Thye Chuan
4 min readMay 25, 2020

Agile has became a terminology widely used in organizations all over the world today. Agile is not just embraced by the five biggest companies by market capitalisation like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, but also by other known companies like Airbnb, Etsy, Lyft, Samsung, Spotify, Tesla and Uber.

These organizations have become more adaptable to meet the shifts of markets driven by customers. Delivering value in a shorter cycles, with smaller teams and networked organizational arrangements over top-down management and silos have became a new norm. And it’s not just happening from a lower management level, we are also seeing it from a C-Suite level.

Market capitalization of Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and GE 2015–2020 (Forbes/Stephen Denning)

The results of how Agility can impact the value of what organizations can deliver is clear, and has become a necessity. However, what do these companies mainly have in common? They are in the technology industry. Which leads to the next thing I’m going to be sharing.

Where did Agile come from?

The reason why Agile is widely used in the technology industry is because it was started by a group of software practitioners who felt that the traditional ways they were building software wasn’t working for themselves.

They decided to mix different methods and combinations that eventually led to methodologies for their team. They then shared their methodologies, created frameworks (such as Scrum) to spread the ideas to other teams in other organizations and contexts.

This group of 17 people decided to meet and discuss the commonalities and differences to their methods, and with the things they aligned upon, ended up being the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the 12 Principles behind it.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development

How did Agile become popular?

Teams and organizations started to adopt Agile, mainly by people doing software development and then the managers of those teams started introducing Agile methodologies within their organizations.

Agile’s popularity eventually created an ecosystem that included the people who were doing Agile software development and the people and organizations who helped them through consulting, training, frameworks, and tools.

Today, almost every Tech Startup I have engaged with are either interested or already applying Agile methodologies in their teams or organization.

Agile is being misunderstood

Some people in teams and organizations have lost sight of the values and principles behind the manifesto. Forgetting the original purposes of Agile, they instead began insisting that certain practices be done in fixed ways.

This is happening with the people I have met in work industry too. One Tech Startup founder even shared that they are running the Sprints (Scrum framework), but is not even aware of Retrospectives, which serve as an important ritual for continuous improvement.

Focusing on the practices and rituals, Agile became a way of approaching work. People were simply “doing” Agile, but they are not “being” Agile.

What is Agile — It is a Mindset

Agile is a mindset driven by values and principles of the Agile Manifesto, which values adaptiveness and response to change.

The Agile mindset determines our thoughts and decisions that we make to apply frameworks, create our own methodologies, perform our and rituals and improve our practices.

Some of these values and principles that I have identified from the Agile Manifesto and 12 Principles include:

  • Adapting to change
  • Progressive delivery of value
  • Continuous learning and improvement
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Openness, courage and respect
  • Trust, support and motivation
  • Technical excellence
  • Sustainability

Agile is for everyone, including you

And that includes, anyone or any team in an organization, no matter what their role or background is. And more importantly, it’s also for you. Yes, you as an individual. You can actually live your personal life with an Agile Mindset.

Yes, it is originally created by software developers. Yes, it has methodologies and frameworks applied by organizations mostly in a software development context. However, I have already seen how it has expanded to so many other teams and departments.

And I personally believe it can be applied in everything in your life including your personal development, relationships, finances, spirituality and more.

Start practicing the Agile mindset

Your workplace is going to become Agile due to its amazing value and effects it has created for teams, organizations and customers. Why not apply it to your life too?

I will be elaborating more of my personal findings on the values and principles behind the Agile Mindset in a future article.



Tan Thye Chuan

A Data and User-driven Product & UX Manager with a passion to fuse Self-Awareness with the Agile Mindset — iamthye.com