Agile Development Methodology? (A Complete Guide for 2024)

The question "What Is Agile Methodology?" fundamentally misrepresents Agile as something it is not. Agile is not a methodology. Agile is a mindset that people can display. Agile is a strategy that organizations can employ. Agile is a set of operating principles that allows people to manage market complexity by organizing into teams. Agile is a rich body of knowledge, geared towards achieving organizational adaptability. Agile is not a singular, prescriptive path.

Agile is best thought of as a philosophy that emphasizes adaptability, customer collaboration, and responsiveness to change, supported by diverse methods, frameworks, and practices. Thinking of agile as a methodology reduces it to a tool rather than recognizing it as a transformative way of thinking and working across various domains.

In this article, we will explore practical applications and debunk myths, showing how to tailor Agile practices to your organization’s unique needs.

In "Agile Development: Beyond Methodology - A Guide for 2024, you’ll discover how adopting an Agile mindset can transform your approach to delivering value, moving beyond methodology to a philosophy that champions adaptability and continuous evolution.

What Is the Definition of Agile Methodology?

There is no such thing, not really. There are popular agile frameworks, i.e.,  pre-packaged life cycles, that claim to provide varying levels of agility to organizations that use them. But there is yet to be one agile methodology.

So, if agile is not a concrete methodology, what is it? While there is no standard agile methodology, we can easily define it concretely.

Agile is best defined as a set of values and principles, a body of knowledge based on values and principles. Most importantly, agile is a community of practitioners passionate about changing our work, moving out of the dark ages of industrial-era thinking and towards a more progressive mindset.

What Is The Industry Agile Methodology Definition?

In essence, there's no single "Agile methodology." (Bad internet, why do you ask such dumb stuff?) The closest definition comes from the Agile Manifesto, emphasizing an iterative, team-focused approach to delivering value, adaptive planning, and continuous improvement based on customer feedback. Agile represents a collection of values, naked by practices and frameworks like Scrum and Kanban, rooted in principles of collaboration and responsiveness to change rather than a rigid, one-size-fits-all methodology.

What Is an Agile Strategy?

A more straightforward definition of agile is a  strategy to help organizations that face increasing market uncertainty by forming self-managing teams with the autonomy to decide how value is created for their customers. Agile methodologies enable teams to achieve outcomes through intimate, direct, and frequent market contact.

We can also define agile as a mindset, a collection of things we value, beliefs, and the behaviours we can observe. Beliefs and behaviours about our people, customers, and work.

I am fairly riffing on concepts found in the book The Agile Mindset by Gil Broza. The result has significantly impacted how I discuss agile thinking with others. It will have an equally positive impact on you as well. Actually, the outcome is a description of an agile mindset that is fit for purpose in our context.


Why Agile methodology?

You choose an agile methodology, or better yet, you choose aspects of an agile methodology because it aligns with the belief that the most effective and efficient way to navigate complexity and uncertainty is through adaptability, customer collaboration, and continuous improvement.

Indeed, agile empowers teams to respond rapidly to changes, integrates customer feedback directly into the development cycle, and encourages a mindset of ongoing learning and adaptation. To clarify, it's about cultivating a progressive, responsive culture that moves away from traditional, rigid structures to ones that are more dynamic and conducive to modern business environments.

Are Agile Methods Adaptable?

You choose any agile methods for their adaptability in dynamic environments. Also, the purpose is for teams to respond to changing requirements and customer feedback swiftly.

In other words, agile methodologies are supposed to help organizations deliver value more effectively. In fact, the idea is to navigate modern complexities with flexibility and customer-centricity, moving away from rigid traditional methods.

What Are Alternatives to Agile Methodology?

Thus, as defined, agile comes in many flavors—for instance, scrum, Kanban, SAFe, and Extreme Programming—and while they differ in their specifics, they are all based on a standard set of principles.

Agile Methodologies and Frameworks

The problem is that some (many) methodologies within the agile umbrella, like Scrum, are often perceived as more fixed and even prescriptive. It's important to acknowledge that the position of Scrum or any agile methodology as something to be rigidly followed has severe limitations.

While Scrum can have some good initial structure and guidance, the dogmatic adherence to its practices can stifle creativity and flexibility. Moreover, every organization is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable. Emphasizing strict adherence to Scrum , or SAFe or whatever, can lead to a checkbox mentality rather than focusing on delivering value. 

Remember, agile principles prioritize individuals and interactions over processes and tools, suggesting that flexibility and adaptation should take precedence. Therefore, a more pragmatic approach that tailors agile practices to specific contexts may be more effective than blindly following Scrum or any other methodology.

Furthermore, insisting that agile methods must be rigidly followed overlooks the primary agile principle of responding to change. In reality, the true essence of agile is adaptability, and the idea of fixed agile methods contradicts this fundamental principle.

Now, let's go through some of the popular agile frameworks, along with a bit of my personal opinion on each:

1. Scrum Agile Framework 

Scrum is an agile framework characterized by defining a simple but fixed set of roles, artifacts, and events, focusing on iterative development and adaptability, although he often prefers more flexible approaches in practice—an “OK” starting point. One significant issue lies in its potential rigidity. 

InScrum's predefined roles, ceremonies, and artifacts can sometimes create a rigid framework that may not align with every organization's unique needs and dynamics. This rigidity can stifle creativity and innovation, as teams may feel constrained by the strict adherence to Scrum practices.  

2. SAFE 

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a widely adopted framework for scaling agile practices to large organizations. SAFe provides a structured approach to implementing agile principles across multiple teams, programs, and the entire enterprise. In fact, it includes various roles, ceremonies, and artifacts that help coordinate and align efforts at scale. 

While SAFe offers a comprehensive framework for the enterprise level, I am not a fan. SAFe's predefined roles and processes often introduce a level of rigidity that is more suited to selling agile to traditional organizations than actually transforming it. SAFe tries to solve the complexity problem by throwing everything but the kitchen sink into its framework. 

Organizations don't need more processes. They need the capability to define and adapt processes to their needs. Safe tries to circumvent this with its methodology bloat, and dangerously so.

3. eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming (XP) is an agile software development methodology that emphasizes collaboration, simplicity, and customer feedback. XP strongly emphasizes engineering practices that improve software quality and enable rapid and flexible responses to changing requirements.

Actually, key principles of XP include continuous integration, test-driven development (TDD), pair programming, and frequent releases. XP teams work closely with customers to understand their needs and incorporate feedback throughout the development process. 

What is not to love? Be ready for the fact that many others won't love it as much as you do. Pair programming, TDD, etc, is a huge culture shift for many and causes XP to be dead on arrival for many teams simply. 

4. Kanban

Kanban is a visual management system that is used to optimize and streamline the flow of work. It originated from manufacturing practices in Toyota and has since been adapted for various industries, especially knowledge work. 

Indeed, Kanban relies on visual boards with cards or tickets representing work items that move through different stages of a flow of work.

Key principles of Kanban include limiting work in progress (WIP) to improve focus and efficiency, visualizing the flow of work for transparency, managing work items based on their priority and value, and using data-driven metrics to optimize processes continually. Kanban is known for its flexibility and adaptability, allowing teams to make real-time adjustments based on demand and changing priorities.

What’s more, I truly appreciate Kanban for its emphasis on visualizing work, limiting WIP, and optimizing flow, which aligns with his belief in feedback and adaptability. I often encourage organizations to consider Kanban as a valuable tool for improving their processes and achieving agility.

agile methodology and mindset
Agile Frameworks

Agile Methodology at Agile by Design

At Agile By Design, we reject selecting any particular agile methodology. We've never been one to embrace fixed methodologies with open arms. Why, you ask? Because we firmly believe that organizations are unique, and what works for one may not work for another. So, we should avoid trying to fit every organization into a predefined box. In fact, the world is far too complex for that.

There are some loose patterns we can use to guide organizations and teams along the journey.

“A client of mine commented on how different it felt after only a few short weeks of starting down the agile road with a couple of their teams. Cubicles were re-arranged into team spaces; filing cabinets were removed. Team members engaged in their surroundings as walls became adorned with kanbans, story maps, domain models, backlogs, and information radiators. My client saw active discussions between team members. Word got out, stakeholders came to visit, and the business started attending team events.”

Agile Methodology for New Teams

You want to focus on approaches that increase transparency and feedback, get people talking to each other and promote collaboration, challenge the status quo, and introduce feedback. You want to clarify when things are broken and working very well.

1- Story Mapping and Exploration

Conduct story mapping sessions to create a holistic view of product features and their relationships. Explore user stories using a test-driven approach (e.g. Spec by Example) in detail to clarify requirements and uncover hidden assumptions.

2- Impact Mapping

is an engaging team activity that bridges the gap between business objectives and the behaviours of end-users. This method highlights the crucial features or user stories that drive these behaviours, emphasizing a user and outcome-focused approach rather than just concentrating on the product features. It’s a strategy that guides teams to prioritize their users’ needs and outcomes.

As for Team Practices, think of it as a more flexible version of the scrum. It includes essential activities like iterative planning, reviews, and retrospectives, but with a twist. The focus here is on fostering a generalist mindset within the team, stressing the significance of team autonomy and collaboration.

Many organizations already employ dedicated scrum masters and product owners. Embrace the helpful, service-oriented elements of these roles to enhance team dynamics. Don’t hesitate to personalize this approach to your team’s needs, and feel free to discard any aspects that aren’t beneficial.

3- Kanban

As previously mentioned, Kanban is meant to provide a way for teams to choose their own flow.  I often recommend Kanban to teams because it offers a bespoke path with reasonable guard rails. For a delivery flow, we can start with a reasonable agile product life cyle rather than starting from scratch.

  1. Insight

Where new ideas and insights are generated, fostering a culture of innovation and encouraging contributions from various sources, and teams, then assess the feasibility and potential value of ideas before proceeding.

  1. Discovery Exploration

In this stage, work items are explored in-depth. Teams conduct research, gather requirements, and define user stories or features. Collaboration with stakeholders ensures a shared understanding. Plus, work items are prioritized based on criteria like customer value and dependencies, following agile principles of delivering value early.

  1. Delivery Development

This phase represents the active definition of story tests, development, and testing of stories themselves. Agile methodologies such as Scrum or eXtreme Programming (XP) live here, emphasizing collaboration, adaptability, and customer feedback.

  1. User Validation

In this stage, completed work items are subjected to user validation to assess the accuracy of predictions made during the earlier stages. Moreover, users or stakeholders validate whether the delivered product or features align with the initial predictions and expectations. 

Based on the feedback received during user validation, teams iterate on the work items if necessary, ensuring that any discrepancies or adjustments are addressed promptly.

  1. The Agile Modeling Method (AMM)

The Agile Modeling Method (AMM) emphasizes the creation of simple, effective models and documentation that evolve alongside the project rather than extensive upfront planning. It encourages practices such as model storming, modelling with others, and just-in-time modelling to capture and communicate essential design and requirements information efficiently.

  1. Design Thinking

Design thinking is a problem-solving and innovation methodology that centers on understanding and empathizing with end users to create human-centred solutions. It involves a structured and iterative process of defining challenges, ideating potential solutions, prototyping, and testing to arrive at innovative and user-friendly designs.

Design thinking encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, fosters creativity, and strongly emphasizes iteration and feedback. It's a holistic approach that seeks to uncover latent needs and deliver solutions that address those needs and resonate with users on a deeper level, ultimately driving meaningful and user-centric innovation.

  1. Software Craftsmanship 

Software craftsmanship is a philosophy and approach to software development that strongly emphasizes producing high-quality, well-crafted software. It draws inspiration from traditional craftsmanship principles, such as attention to detail, pride in one's work, and continuous improvement.

Overall, software craftsmanship seeks to elevate software development from a mere technical task to a creative and disciplined profession. It is a mindset that encourages developers to take pride in their work, deliver valuable solutions, and continually refine their skills, ultimately resulting in functional and high-quality software.


In summation, agile is much more than one set of rules or procedures; it is a dynamic mindset and a cultural paradigm. Agile's true power lies in its adaptability and capacity to evolve and mould itself to the unique contours of each organization. This guide has traversed through various agile methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, and Extreme Programming, each offering distinct approaches yet anchored in the same agile principles of collaboration, flexibility, and continuous improvement.

In essence, agile is a journey, not a destination. It's a path that encourages organizations to shift from the rigidity of traditional methods to the fluidity of a more progressive, responsive approach.

Agile empowers teams to embrace change, prioritize customer feedback, and foster a perpetual learning and adaptation culture. As we've seen, this journey can manifest in different forms, from the structured sprints of Scrum to the visual workflow management of Kanban, each methodology bringing its unique strengths to the table.

As organizations continue to navigate the complexities of the modern business environment, Agile offers a beacon of resilience and innovation. It's about creating environments where teams can thrive, ideas can flourish, and the ultimate goal is delivering value to customers most effectively and efficiently.

As you move forward, remember that agile is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It's a flexible framework that should be tailored to fit your organization's unique needs and challenges. Whether you're just starting your agile journey or looking to refine your current practices, keep the core agile principles in mind and be open to continuous learning and adaptation. Embrace agile as a methodology and a mindset that can transform how you work, collaborate, and deliver value.

In the end, the journey towards agile excellence is ongoing, filled with learning, adapting, and growing. May this guide serve as your compass in this ever-evolving journey, helping you navigate the agile landscape with confidence and purpose. Welcome to Elegant – a world of endless possibilities and continuous evolution.