How is being agile different from doing agile?

A rugby scrum at Ohio University.

There’s a reason SAS is a leader in so many different areas, and the adoption of Agile Scrum is no exception.

“Scrum” gets its namesake from rugby, and more specifically, the name of a play where all team members lock arms and wrestle for the ball so that the game can continue. No question, it’s a strange label for an otherwise terrific collection of software development practices we call Agile Scrum.

Agile Scrum is a set of widely respected, credible and powerful practices that help teams and customers lock arms and work side by side. It includes practices such as:  release and iteration planning, user-centric feature request decomposition, team engagement, development and testing team integration, predictive instrumentation and frequent customer acceptance.

In a recent study, SAS Research & Development identified 38 core practices from Agile Scrum methodology currently in use by the R&D team. The study also identified 10 results that should be evident with any large-scale process improvement initiative. Examples of measured results include higher team productivity and customer satisfaction.

In an examination of the real vs. perceived benefits of agile, R&D learned that higher results come from a more mature adoption. Understanding the mechanics and practicing well are key, but only a part of the agile engine. SAS R&D observed that there’s another important element to being able to fire on all cylinders: actually being agile.  Success is easier with Agile Scrum, yet brilliant success doesn’t come from doing agile alone.

It’s not rhetoric -- it’s real. When teams progress from a basic understanding of the practices, you can tell. You can hear it in the nature of the questions they’re asking each other. You can feel the higher level of excitement and energy. Being agile is what happens when teams get it. SAS gets it as evident in all of the company's core values, especially swift and agile.

Being agile isn’t mystical, it’s a mindset. You’ll notice it in young children. You may notice it in new college grads. It challenges status quo in a productive way that helps teams get more done, better. It generates ideas that leap. It’s a rigorous, systematic thought-process that fuels itself. This is especially true here at SAS because of our work culture, customer relationships and passion to maintain industry leadership. SAS has a long history of being agile at a strategic level, and after a few years of applying the principles of scrum, we have a history of being more agile in executing that strategy.

The agile engine is in full gear, helping us learn and adapt, iteration by iteration, day by day.

Image credit: photo by Matt Guffey // attribution by creative commons


About Author

Tim Arthur

Principal R&D Program Manager

Tim Arthur holds his MS from Georgia Institute of Technology in Management of Technology. He is a Program Manager as well as innovator and agile champion within SAS at Cary, NC. Prior, he worked for IBM, leading cutting-edge software development projects for global 24x7 mission-critical manufacturing processes. Away from work you’ll find him kayaking, biking, enjoying photography or helping with non-profits.

1 Comment

  1. You are right when you say being agile is all about mindset. The team needs to get past the desire to implement a given set of 'agile' processes - come what may - and figure out what might be better ways to solve a given problem. Everything else being equal, I would equate 'being agile' to simply applying common sense and logical thinking when the recommended process doesn't seem to be the best thing to do. Unfortunately, people tend to box themselves in the safety of an external advise and limit themselves to doing agile.

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