Do Agile vs Be Agile

Do Agile vs Be Agile

The story behind this “rivalry” sparks discussions among project management experts globally. However, understanding the main concepts of Agile is easier when we take a relative approach. Do Agile vs Be Agile is a topic that can potentially draw the complete picture of Agile for the reader. It might seem like a simple play of words, but the two letters change the game. From our professional experience, the “battle” between Doing Agile and Being Agile has an obvious winner.


What is Real Agile?

Progressive organizations nowadays are or strive to Be Agile. Part of them completely embraces the whole philosophy and eventually, becomes Agile. Another segment chases the word “Agile” and, as a result, only DOES Agile. Why does “Being Agile” make so much difference? 

Let’s go back to the roots of the Agile methodology in search of the answer. Agile started and served as the ultimate approach for addressing high uncertainty. To elaborate, if the project asks for change, Agile is the suitable method to minimize risk and maximize value. 

Thus, to enjoy the “total package” of Agile benefits, the team needs fundamental changes in behavior and approaches. The common behavior when “Doing Agile” is the usage of certain Agile components and not its full culture. 

Some teams might have a false perception of what Agility really means. When the team conducts Agile ceremonies or starts giving themselves Agile framework titles, that’s rarely called “Being Agile”. “Being Agile” is much more than the implementation of what is written in books on Agile methodology.

Since the birth of Agile, the creators always implied that utilizing the full potential of Agile requires serious commitment. Moreover, it is more about the philosophy and mindset rather than the small details. Agile teams need to Be Agile in every step and decision. The difficulty in Agile adoption is that the team needs to substantially change their thought process. Surely, that’s going to cost the team time and effort, but the fruits will never disappoint.


Agile Mindset vs Agile Tools

Agile methodology is trending in the software engineering industry. Fairly said, it has proved its worth during the last decades with the example of industry giants’ successes. The success stories and of course, catastrophic failures are tangible proof that Agile does the job. However, when it comes to less experienced companies, “Doing Agile” is a more common development scenario. The organizations start using trendy Agile tools, track their workflow in esthetically good-looking boards, and consider themselves “Being Agile”.

Afterward, when their success does not match their expectations, they consider their Agile transformation to be a failure. Of course, this is an exaggerated example, but it’ll help us clearly emphasize the problem. In this case, the failure of the company or the team was not the choice of the wrong tool or Agile framework. The mistake starts with the approach to the transformation - prioritizing tools and methods over mindset and values. 


Agile Manifesto

The birth of the Agile methodology is widely considered to be the creation of the Agile Manifesto. Agile Manifesto is a document that encompasses 4 values and 12 working principles for Agile teams. If we speak in the context of our article, the Agile Manifesto tells us how to “Be Agile”.

Establishing an Agile mindset is everlasting insurance that the team will bring the most out of its potential. While developing the Agile Manifesto the creators made sure that it is a serving guideline. Rather than reading and memorizing it and Doing Agile, agile teams should embrace the philosophy and Be Agile. 

The values and principles in the Manifesto are easy to learn but difficult to master. Doing Agile in this case would be knowing all 4 values and 12 principles by heart. In contrast, changing approaches and mindsets would represent Being Agile. Լet’s discuss the 4 values to elaborate more on what we mean by Being Agile.


Before we begin, the values on the left side do not overwrite the right ones, they are just more preferable to prioritize in an Agile environment.


“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”

At the end of the day, the core of every project is people. Agile Manifesto emphasizes the importance of having human interactions at the base of the project. Constant communication between team members, their personal life and emotional state, and their ownership are some of the crucial components. These are factors that can potentially decide the faith of the project. Thus, in order to Be Agile, agile teams must prioritize the human factor over tools and established processes.


“Working software over comprehensive documentation”

The traditional project management method expects the project to have detailed and extensive documentation. In contrast, Agile projects generally keep “just enough” documentation and concentrate on constantly delivering working software after every iteration. With this approach, the project starts producing a working product from the very beginning. Surely, documentation still has its place as long as it does not disturb the production of a working product.

“Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”

When we strive to Be Agile, our ultimate goal is to satisfy the customer, even if we work for ourselves. Thus, Agile projects have more flexibility in collaborating with the client. As Agile teams, we need to make sure that we build the best possible product. Being Agile means that we collaborate with clients throughout the process of product development. Eventually, having the customer around and taking their feedback into consideration helps pivot the project in the right direction.

“Responding to change over following a plan”

The agile methodology works best with knowledge work projects where uncertainty is comparably higher. “Change“ is considered an expense in traditional methodology because it is a deviation from the initial plan. However, Agile projects have a universal solution for addressing the changing requirements and circumstances: iterations. Agile teams organize their work in timely iterations. This approach allows them to take changes into account and minimize the threats to the project. Being Agile in this case means being able to welcome change and respond appropriately.



Our story has told about the philosophical but also the most important aspect of Agile: the mindset. We’ve interpreted it as the rivalry between Being Agile and Doing Agile. Getting deeper into the details of this rivalry has explained why adopting the Agile mindset in the team is crucial. Taking the example of Agile Manifesto values we uncovered that none of the values prioritizes certain tools or techniques. Moreover, they put more mindset-oriented approaches over technical approaches by not diluting the importance of the latter. We inspire and encourage you to read and learn more, and never forget to make your brain shift to Being Agile.