What is business agility?

There are tons of ill-defined words in the dictionary of organization vocabulary. Agile, agility, Business Agility, Lean are terms that are widely thrown around. There is a tendency to define this to whatever one deems this to be and suits them and then claim that we are <whatever> term you want to fill there. Let’s try defining this mythical beast called “agility”.

Picture courtesy IMDB from the movie “Shall we dance?”

This blog is focused on “turning on a dime” and I would like to first define what it means to look at these words from that perspective. Can your really turn on a dime? Are you adaptable enough to turn on a dime? Looking at each of the practices above – Agile, Lean, business agility, agility, the common theme is your ability to adapt, be extremely adaptive.

There was a classical definition of what Agility is and it used to be available on the Scrum Alliance website. This website was refreshed a while back and all these nuggets of valuable content built over the years have been lost. I am reconstructing this post on agility as a something that is reference-able by whoever has value to reference it to.


This definition comes from the book Scaling Lean and Agile Development by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, published in 2009 and has been around for more than ten years now. It has be condensed and abbreviated to keep the focus on values and principles (eliminating the frameworks and methods described) in order to focus on strategy of change, rather than the tactics of change. Bas and Craig are both deep systems thinking and Lean practitioners and this very much reflective in the work they do and the approaches they take.

‘Agile’ is not a practice. It is a quality of the organization and its people to be adaptive, responsive, continually learning and evolving—to be agile , with the goal of competitive business success and rapid delivery of economically valuable products and knowledge.

Picture courtesy: CraigLarman.com

adaptive, responsive, continually learning and evolving organization

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines agile as ready ability to move with quick easy grace. Agile does not mean delivering faster. Agile does not mean fewer defects or higher quality. Agile does not mean higher productivity. Agile means agile—the ability to move with quick easy grace, to be nimble and adaptable. To embrace change and become masters of change—to compete through adaptability by being able to change faster than your competition can.

does not mean delivering faster, fewer defects, or higher quality or higher productivity

embrace and become masters of change

Perhaps faster delivery and higher quality will be achieved with an agile methods, but it is vital for business and engineering leaders to appreciate that the raison d’être of agile methods is…agility.

the ability to move with quick easy grace, be nimble and adaptable

change cheaper and faster than your competitors can

Now that is turning on a dime. And over the next few blogs, I would like to get the definitions out of the way, so that we can focus on how we can use them. When in doubt, we can also refer back to these constructs on whether we agree with them or not. If we don’t agree with the principles, we can certainly have a dialogue on what principles that you are based upon and whether we can learn from them and in what way!

Bas Vodde
Craig Larman


2 thoughts on “What is business agility?

  1. Pingback: What is Business Agility?

  2. Pingback: What is Business Agility? – 2agility.com

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