Lately, I’ve been thinking about Modern Agile a lot. It took me a while to get my head wrapped around it at first, but it turns out that I was completely overthinking it. After watching Joshua Kerievsky’s excellent explanation, I’m finally starting to grok it.

You may recall that I’ve written about the difference between “doing agile” and being agile. Basically, people usually talk about agility as if it’s something that you do. If you work in sprints, have stand ups and retros, and release code every two weeks, you’re agile. But that’s like saying that if you do yoga every day, you’re skinny and flexible. The problem with that is that you can still overeat and not be able to touch your toes. We tend to do the same thing with our organizations. We start implementing “Agile” with a capital “A” (doing yoga) and never stop to ask ourselves if we’re really improving our business agility.

I see this more and more. I just got back from yet another conference where I heard people talking more about Scrum and SAFe and LeSS than I did about true business agility. That’s not to say those talks weren’t there, they just weren’t the majority. And this is a place where people who care about agility gather to try to be more agile.

Fixing this is what modern agile is all about. It’s not a methodology that consultants will try to sell you. It’s just a set of four principles that nicely capture what the original Manifesto and its corresponding Twelve Principles were trying to lay down.

Make People Awesome

Are your employees awesome? Are your customers? How can you support them so that they can be their most awesome?

Make Safety a Prerequisite

Safety needs to be everywhere. We need social safety so that people can voice their opinions. We need safety to try new things without fear of failure. We need safety in our deployment pipeline through automated tests. We need to be able to deploy rapidly in case those tests fail.

Deliver Value Continuously

This is where old school Agile falls the furthest behind. “Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” A couple of weeks is no longer good enough, and a couple of months is an eternity. I also really like the focus on delivering value here.

Experiment and Learn Rapidly

This is the core of business agility. Business agility is all about being able to try new things, learn from them, and move in a new direction based on the results.

There’s no “this over that” mentality in Modern Agile. There’s no risk of “tl;dr”. Just four things to focus on that are easy to remember. Modern Agile doesn’t suggest that these things are easy to do, and neither do I. They’re hard. Creating safety is uncomfortable. Continuous delivery is a lot of work. Continuously delivering value is even more. Experimentation and learning is a huge shift for most organizations. And making people awesome…what does that even mean?

Modern agile doesn’t give you those answers. That’s because it shouldn’t. Your organization is a special snowflake and, to mix metaphors, there are no silver bullets. But Manifesto agile was never meant to be about silver bullets either. Rather, it was always supposed to be a loose set of ideals. And we were always supposed to figure out the nuts and bolts of how to apply them ourselves.

* All images in this post are courtesy of Modern Agile.