Debate

Big A Agile or Little A agile?

Agile — in its manifesto form — turns 17 this year. Time for an identity crisis befitting an angsty teenager: am I just a system, or am I a way of life? Capital A Agile often refers to a set of codified tools and practices that make up an Agile organization – be it in software engineering, where Agile began, or elsewhere in the organization. Lowercase A agile is more of a “lifestyle,” an approach to managing a business in a way that anticipates the unexpected and is therefore resilient in the face of uncertainty and disruption. ProductCraft contributor Cliff Gilley probably explains it best: “agility is not just something you practice or some tool that you adopt and adapt — it’s a quality that you have, or that you don’t.”

An overwhelming majority of 86% of you voted for lowercase agile in our poll. But the debaters are actually more divided – in fact, this is the first time we’ve had four debaters give four different answers. We have one debater each advocating for one of the binaries, and two debaters who expanded the scope of the discussion. What kind of a/Agile do you practice, and why? Tell us more in the comments below.

Little “a” for sure

"We are definitely transitioning into a new phase where agility is more critical than ever, but creating Agility with a single “A” tool is no longer the defacto approach. “agility” can be achieved in many ways, and frankly agility means different things to different teams and organizations. As Agile has matured and grown in adoption, organizations are now looking to move from Agile anarchy to a more scalable “agile” way of doing business. Interesting and exciting time for sure."

Patrick Tickle
CPO, Planview
Capital A

"On occasion, we find ourselves in heated debates over Agile/agile in our engineering and product teams. Ultimately, we found that we benefit more from more structure over freedom. Our advice: if the product and your company are growing and scaling fast it is very important to make sure agile processes become as predictable and repeatable as possible. If you are still building your minimal viable or if your team is small, by all means, stay as flexible as possible."

Maria Thomas
VP Products, Insightly
Both!

"Embracing "little A" agile means a willingness to adopt an overall organizational lifestyle that drives velocity throughout all functional areas of the business. Why should Development be the only team that gets to fail early and fail often? Wouldn’t it be great if we tested our messaging, sales enablement and customer support readiness right alongside our product development initiatives? Big “A” Agile is a great product development tool that allows us to incorporate market requirements, design, build, test and validation together, which is also great. Big “A”, little “a”? Why choose when we can have it all?!"

Kirsten Butzow
Product Coach, Pragmatic Marketing
Forget Agile

"Agile is a very popular buzzword recently, and while we can debate spelling for hours, the more interesting question for me these days is how important is velocity to us, what are we willing to change, and what prices are we willing to pay to boost it? like Kristen wrote, it moves far beyond dev. Are we willing to cut the scope of our products and releases, to minimize dev and support? do we ever think of cutting out features or are we only adding? are we doing post-mortems only when we have production issues, or also when the release date is missed? when dev gives release estimations that we believe are not bold enough, what do we do? how do we measure if we become faster and what are the KPIs for that? Are we willing to minimize or kill QA and let developers own testing?"

David Schwartz
VP Product, Wix
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