Did you know that the first known use of “agile” was in 1581? That is according to Merriam-Webster. At that time, and until very recently, agile was the property of a person: “marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace” or “having a quick resourceful and adaptable character”, again according to Merriam-Webster.
Somehow the behaviour was transferred to teams and organisations, and this makes sense, as they are made up of people. Now I have to ask myself, is it still the same meaning of agile? A group of agile people does not necessarily come across as an agile team. It they all moved in different directions without some underlying, perceivable pattern, one would hardly talk of the team being agile.
Ballet is probably a good analogy. There is a script, a play – with meaning – to be acted out. There is a very strict common understanding of allowed movements and expressions, and what quality level needs to be reached. This means that the contribution of each members agile movement to the overall agility – grace – of the ballet performance is monitored. The roles of the members are assigned based on skills, and these are honed in intensive and repeated “drill” under the auspices a coach. Discipline is required, and paired with artistic improvisation where expressiveness – value to the customer, the viewer – can be enhanced.
Want to see an agile team? Go and see Romeo and Juliet. The quality of team members, the rigidity of the discipline, the supportiveness of the environment that develops them, and the sincerity of appreciation by the customers, together determine the quality of the ballet – the agility of the performance.
Does software require less of its development teams and team members?