How Agile Practices have become an element of General Management

What we today know as “agile practices” have been developed in the software industry.

Today “software is eating the world” (Wall Street Journal, 2011) and meanwhile is dominating all other industries.

But on its way up, software companies went through big crises. Much had been promised to customers in the 1980s and 1990s, but comparably little was achieved. The complexity of assignments had been greatly underestimated.

New ways of organizing and collaborating of highly specialized knowledge workers had to be found.

Basic discoveries have been made regarding how to organize and and how to collaborate:

  • Complex, innovative solutions evolve mainly through collaboration between people and teams.
  • Highly specialized knowledge worker need self-organizing, cross-functional units to be effective.
  • Test-and-learn” instead of “plan-and-implement” promises much more success when it comes to new and innovative challenges.
  • Short feedback-cycles, internally between people and teams as well as externally with clients, are key elements for success.
  • When it comes to completely new fields of action, co-creation with the customers is a must.

Thus, practices as adaptive planning, evolutionary development,  continuous improvement and rapid and flexible responses to change have become key elements of any successful strategy.

Agile Manifesto

The term “agile” in the context of software development has first been introduced in 2001 with the The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, also known as the Agile Manifesto:

Agile Manifesto


Meanwhile, other industries are discovering these agile practices. More and more organizations recognize that an increasingly interconnected world can not be run with simple “plan-and-implement” approaches. A complex environment needs new ways of management. For that matter much can be learnt from agile practices.




  1. I agree with you completely, Hans!

    Given today’s ‘edge of chaos’ environment, agility is essential and in fact, optimal — what better response to the tension between constant change and the constraints that weaken change efforts. It is also notable that agile enterprises exist not just as corporations but also as non-profits (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous), and community efforts (e.g., Wikipedia, the Burning Man festival) as well.

  2. Thanks, Shrey. Leaving out public listed companies, I think the difference between “for-profit” and “non-profit” organizations becomes more and more negligible. Both have to strive to create value for their customers/target groups. Even the fact that non-profits get their financings from third parties gets increasingly less of a difference, as business enterprises are going for similar business models (eg internet companies providing content for a target group while getting financed by ads from third parties).

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