The Agile Manifesto 20th Anniversary wrapped up its day with an exciting Future of Agile panel, where a group of inspiring Agilists imagined what the world of Agile will look like moving forward. Here are some takeaways from the panel.
Panelists: Joe Justice, Rocío Briceño, Natal Dank, Brian Rabon, and Jeff Patton
What’s Happening within the world of business agility?
Brian: I purchased a CrossFit gym this past year, and I wanted to create a leadership model that empowered the coaches. So we used all the values and principles of Agile to create a self-organizing, self-managing team. Business Agility is taking the values and principles of Agile and putting them into a business context so that people feel intrinsic motivation.
Natal: what’s interesting about the pandemic is that it brings out the benefits and the reasons for working Agile, and it’s awoken the HR profession to why you need to be Agile. Your purpose is what will make your business successful—your purpose for your employees, your community, and your product. I think Covid has made consumers look for a business’s purpose, they want to connect to a business that is adding value to their lives and their community.
Joe: A definition for Business Agility can be, “Can the company reduce costs to make change in the product or service, in the people they have, in their supply chain, so the business can pivot.
Brian: You need to take the values and principles at a high level and say, “How can I use this as a philosophy and a mindset so that everyone in the company is always looking for change, but also living the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto?”
Jeff: Organizations are starting to move their focus to their outcome, and that really has profound effects to how it changes their process.
Rocio: In social justice, we see it as one system. The way a system will have evolution, we have to adapt the whole systems, businesses, organizations. Everyone needs to have a rhythm, dancing together. If one system isn’t working with the others then there will be a delay, and that’s where inequity happens. We all need to be Agile to have the flexibility for evolution.
How do you make Agility more accessible/less daunting?
Joe: The jargon gets in the way. It makes sense when we talk about people needing to do quality work, prioritize, and remove friction, frustration, or impediments. And ideally we wish people could do all three of those things. Removing the jargon is very important. If I can’t explain this to a first-grader, I’m using the wrong words.
Brian: I had the challenge of working with a CrossFit team that had never heard of Agile. So I did what any Agile Facilitator does—got out the Post-It notes and a Sharpie, and we sat down and created a working agreement, a mission, and some values. We did the kind of Agile planning we are all familiar with, but we didn’t get into the why or the technical terms. Another thing that’s important is that we need to model the behavior we want to see. That way, teams can pick up on our behaviors. If you model trust in your environment, then all of a sudden more trust is going to come and you’ll become more Agile.
Natal: How do you make the Agile Manifesto relevant to the part of the business you’re talking about. How do you help people understand what the Manifesto means within their space? What I find valuable is stripping away from the methods and getting into the mindset that Brian mentioned. And linking back to the word value and reminding them how to deliver value to the customer.
Rocio: Agile is a mindset, but it’s also an attitude. If you focus on the collaboration aspect, it’s an attitude that people have to be willing to embrace. But to get people to not be afraid of Agile, you have to feel like you’re in a safe space. And as Agilists, we need to understand where people are coming from so we can make them feel safe.
What’s the future of agile?
Joe: When I worked with Elon Musk, I was blown away with how much of the focus was about making it incredibly fun. And I think a good future of Agile question is, “How do I make work a party place?” Without losing quality or speed, of course.
Jeff: There’s something else there. People take jobs because they fall in love with the purpose of the organization. The fourth wave of Agile will be purpose.
Rocio: This question was asked in Japan at a technology conference. They defined something called Society 5.0, which is a human-centered society that balances the economic and societal problems. This correlates a lot with Agile. I would like to think in the near future we will have the balance of power and the solution to social problems, and having the collaboration and purpose to become a more centered human being.
Brian: The “why” is the foundation that everything builds upon. The future to me is us letting go of some of the dogma that’s been a part of the community, and looking with new eyes on how we can modify Agile and take the values and principles and apply them to leadership, customer service, and all other areas of the organization. A lot of people are afraid of straying from the tight roles of Agile, but that’s not Agile. It’s about adopting the values and principles of Agile into an organization and making it fun, but also helps an organization gets stuff done and build value for the customer.
Natal: For me it’s about how do we become more human-centric. When you start to take Agile values into different parts of the business, then it’s about building a really human way of working. So it’s about building purpose, which can equal fun, but it’s also about psychological safety, trust, being able to fail. Covid has fundamentally changed the way we work, and we’re not going to go back to the way we were before. So many of us are debating what does a hybrid office look like, what does the office of the future look like.
What are some unconventional ways we can use agility?
Brian: John Miller is taking Agility into elementary schools. They’re learning every day with Scrum as their framework. They won’t move on to the next lesson until they all agree they understood the lesson. The teacher is the Product Owner, the kids are self-disciplining. The kids may not understand it all, but it’s keeping kids from getting left behind if they don’t understand a concept.
Rocio: One example is multi-lateral organizations, organizations that are made to help countries develop and reduce inequity. They’re already using Agile without calling it Agile. Another example is using Agile with my stepdaughter. When she comes over, she takes sticky notes and makes her plan for the week and prioritizes what she has to do. And we play, and she reflects on that. It’s amazing.
Brian: A lot of people live life in pursuit of money, and we don’t take the time to truly live and find our purpose. What’s awesome about Agile is that it makes you self-reflect, use the retrospectives, spend time on your own life and decide what you truly want, and then go for it! A lot of us in the Agile community have had that liberation—we have found a way to turn our lives around and live Agile and be Agile.
It’s 2025 and we’ve shifted beyond the pandemic into a new normal. what’s the state of agile?
Joe: The preference to a shorter timescale is here, and software will never be the same. If we look into the future, there won’t be any industry that doesn’t have a preference to a shorter timescale. And what that will take is awesome Agilists to help get the automated feedback loops and superior design tools.
Brian: The pandemic forced us to change as a society, and all these Agile principles were implemented by default. There was more trust, more focus on results, more collaboration, and it accelerated the pace of Agile adoption worldwide. And that pace will only continue to accelerate faster and faster.
Rocio: The pandemic showed us that we have to care about each other. And if we collaborate with each other, the pandemic will end faster.
Natal: Personal agility may be the future, but we can only do it together. We have to solve complex problems with diverse thinking, and we can only do that by collaborating.
Jeff: Everything is changing so quickly, and I think Agile is a side effect of that. The world is teaching us to be adaptable and to have better coping mechanisms.
Special Behind the Scenes Footage: Brian Rabon interviews Alistair Cockburn on his thoughts about the future of Agile.
Braintrust Asks Alister—The Future of Agile