Definition of Agility

The act of adapting to, and exploiting, the realities we see, as opposed to being predictive or plan-driven. Agility has two primary facets: Physical Agility and Mental Agility.


We often speak of Agile processes. For example, we refer to Scrum, eXtreme Programming (XP) and Kanban (among others) as Agile processes. But processes can’t be Agile, only people can be Agile – only people can make decisions and be accountable for those decisions.


Have you ever been working on something and had something go ‘sideways’ on you? Maybe you’re working in the garden and you hit a big rock or run into to tree root. Maybe you’re cooking a meal and realize you’re missing an ingredient. Maybe you’re assembling an IKEA® bookshelf and realize you used the bottom shelf on the top. When something like this happens, when something goes wrong, when something goes sideways, you usually ask yourself the questions: “Now what? What do I do now?”   We need Agility to deal with the unexpected. We make plans, and those plans often fall apart or need to change. Predicting what will happen is hard, especially if you’re looking for details, and Agility is what we need when our plans are not working out – which is often the case. Agility and Accountability The essence of Agility is making necessary decisions when things ‘go sideways’ and being accountable for those decisions. Agility is a high-discipline activity; your decisions should be informed and well thought out, and you must be able to explain them to others. If you made a decision, you must be able to explain it – this is the essence of accountability.   Agility is nothing new; it has a long history. The study of Agility is a science; the military has been studying it for centuries. Using Agility can help organizations and people succeed in their efforts, but doing Agility well requires mastery, study, and practice

External Sources

Agility White Paper

Cite This Term

"Agility" Accessed Jun 17, 2024.