Being Agile vs Doing Agile - What's the Difference?

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jul 5, 2023
Updated on
Jul 5, 2023
Table of Content


In the world of software development and project management, the terms "agile" and "Agile team" are often used interchangeably. However, there's a crucial distinction between "being agile" and "doing agile." Understanding this difference is essential for effectively implementing Agile methodologies and achieving success in your projects. So, let's dive into it and shed light on the disparity.

What People Mean When They Say They're Agile

When someone claims to be "agile," they usually refer to the mindset and principles of Agile. Being agile encompasses embracing the core values of the Agile Manifesto, such as collaboration, adaptability, customer satisfaction, and continuous improvement. It's about fostering a culture that values flexibility, transparency, and iterative development.

However, it's not uncommon to come across individuals or scrum teams who claim to be agile but fall short when it comes to practicing the true essence of Agile principles. They might proudly proclaim their agility while, in reality, failing to embody the core values and behaviors that make Agile successful. Often, this manifests in a lack of transparency, an aversion to change, or the tendency to work in isolated silos rather than collaborating as a cohesive unit. While words can be persuasive, it's the actions that truly reflect whether someone is genuinely embracing agility or merely paying it lip service.

What Doing Agile Actually Looks Like

On the other hand, doing agile refers to the practical implementation of Agile methodologies and practices. It involves following a structured framework, such as Scrum or Kanban, that guides the team through iterative development cycles, known as sprints or iterations. Doing agile requires specific actions and practices that align with the Agile principles.

For example, in Scrum, doing agile involves organizing work into a backlog of prioritized user stories, planning and committing to a set of work for a sprint, conducting daily stand-up meetings for coordination, and regularly reviewing and adapting the plan through sprint reviews and retrospectives. Doing agile also includes practices like test-driven development, continuous integration, and frequent releases to ensure quality and responsiveness.

Warning Signs You're Not Doing Agile

Sometimes, teams claim to be doing agile but fall into certain pitfalls that hinder their progress. Here are some warning signs that you might not be truly doing agile:

Lack of transparency

One of the key pillars of Agile is transparency. If your team is not openly communicating progress, sharing challenges, or providing visibility into their work, it can hinder the ability to adapt and make informed decisions. Without transparency, there may be hidden roadblocks, missed opportunities for collaboration, and a lack of trust among team members and stakeholders.

Inflexibility to change

Agile methodologies thrive on embracing change. If your team is resistant to adjusting plans, hesitant to incorporate feedback from customers or stakeholders, or clings rigidly to predefined requirements, it's a clear sign that the principles of agility are not being followed. Agile teams should welcome change as an opportunity to learn and improve, ensuring that they deliver the most valuable solutions.

Siloed work

Collaboration is at the heart of Agile. If individuals on your team work in isolation, with minimal interaction and shared ownership of the work, it hampers agility. Agile teams encourage cross-functional collaboration, where everyone brings their unique expertise to the table, fostering collective problem-solving and innovation. Siloed work not only slows down progress but also limits the potential for synergy and creativity.

Lack of continuous feedback and improvement

Agile promotes a culture of continuous learning and improvement. If your team is not regularly reflecting on their processes, seeking feedback, and identifying areas for enhancement, they may be missing out on the essence of agility. Retrospectives, where the team reflects on their work and identifies ways to improve, are a vital practice in Agile. Without this introspection, the team may struggle to adapt and grow, potentially repeating past mistakes.

Absence of customer involvement

Agile methodologies place a strong emphasis on customer collaboration and satisfaction. If your team is not actively involving customers in the development process, seeking their feedback, and incorporating it into iterations, it indicates a deviation from Agile practices. Engaging customers and stakeholders throughout the project ensures that their needs are understood and addressed promptly, leading to solutions that truly meet their expectations.

Recognizing these warning signs is crucial for course correction. If any of these signs resonate with your team, it's an opportunity to reassess your approach and align with Agile principles. Embracing transparency, flexibility, collaboration, continuous improvement, and customer involvement are key steps toward ensuring that your team is genuinely practicing Agile methodologies and reaping the benefits they bring.

Best Practices for Making Sure You Do Agile

To ensure that your team is effectively doing agile, consider the following best practices:

Emphasize the agile mindset

To truly do Agile, it's important to foster an agile mindset within your team. Encourage a culture of learning, adaptability, and transparency. Create an environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute their ideas, collaborate effectively, and make decisions that align with Agile principles. Cultivating this mindset sets the foundation for successfully implementing Agile methodologies.

Invest in agile training

Providing your team members with the necessary training and resources is crucial for ensuring they understand and implement Agile methodologies correctly. Agile is a discipline that requires knowledge and practice. Invest in training programs, workshops, and certifications that align with the specific Agile framework you're adopting, such as Scrum or Kanban. This will help your team gain a common understanding and language, enabling them to work cohesively.

Continuous improvement

Agile thrives on continuous improvement. Encourage your team to regularly review and reflect on their processes, seeking areas for enhancement. Conduct retrospectives at the end of each iteration or project phase to gather insights and identify opportunities for improvement. Implement the changes identified in these retrospectives and track their impact. Embrace experimentation and adapt your practices based on feedback and lessons learned to continually enhance your team's agility.

Foster collaboration and cross-functional teams

Agile methodologies emphasize collaboration and the power of cross-functional teams. Encourage regular communication and interaction among team members. Break down silos and encourage knowledge sharing. Foster an environment where individuals from different disciplines work together, leveraging their unique skills and perspectives. This collaborative approach leads to better problem-solving, increased productivity, and a sense of shared ownership over the project's success.

Involve stakeholders and customers

Agile methodologies place a strong emphasis on customer collaboration and satisfaction. Actively involve stakeholders and customers throughout the development process. Seek their feedback, involve them in regular demos or reviews, and incorporate their input into the iterations. This engagement ensures that their needs and expectations are understood and addressed promptly, resulting in solutions that truly meet their requirements.

By implementing these best practices, you can ensure that your team is not only claiming to be agile but genuinely doing Agile. Emphasizing the agile mindset, providing appropriate training, promoting continuous improvement, fostering collaboration, and involving stakeholders are key steps towards successfully implementing Agile methodologies. Remember, Agile is not just a buzzword but a set of practices that, when implemented effectively, can bring significant benefits to your software development projects.


While being agile and doing agile share a common foundation, the difference lies in the practical implementation. Being agile implies embracing the Agile mindset and principles, while doing agile involves following structured methodologies and practices. By recognizing this distinction and striving for a balance between the two, teams can achieve true agility and unlock the benefits of Agile methodologies in their software development projects. So, go forth, embrace the agile mindset, and bring agility to your team's everyday work.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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