Declan Whelan – “An agile mindset can apply to any situation”


Declan Whelan,

Director, Agile Alliance (

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Q&A on “Agile Concept” with Dcclan Whelan

What is Agile and Agile Manifesto?
‘Agile’ was conceived in 2001 as a better way to build software based on what worked empirically. It is based on the following Agile Manifesto values:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

There are also accompanying principles and practices.

What are different Agile methodologies and which is most common or widely-used?
I tend to avoid the term ‘methodology’ when it comes to Agile and instead talk about light weight frameworks as Agile is really about discovering the practices that work best for you and your team.

There are many agile frameworks including Scrum, Extreme Programming, FSDM, Crystal, Kanban and more recently SAFe, LESS and Disciplined Agile Delivery for applying agile beyond teams.

Agile is to do with Software Development only or the concept has its wide application? Can you give some examples?
Agile was initially conceived to be for software only. We have seen this shift over time as software development companies are now applying an agile mindset to non-software aspects of their business. Agile has been applied to non-software companies as well. However, Not an area of expertise for me so I can’t provide personal examples.

I think an agile mindset can apply to any situation where requirements are uncertain or may change. See

Can Agile be of some value to the functional organizations? If so, how such organizations can transform themselves in to an Agile Organizations?

I think agility can help functionally organized companies. Such organizations will likely be project oriented and/or managed via a matrix model to assign people in functional roles to various products. It will be important to focus on creating cross-functional agile teams that cut across the functional boundaries in the organization. The organization should focus on trying to adopt agile on longer running products so they can keep the teams intact. Such teams will struggle with organizational impediments when they work with other project teams and need specialist functional support from outside their team (e.g. security or DBA).

Functional organizations organize themselves to optimize for ‘efficiency’ and ‘utilization’. Agile teams should instead focus on the value stream and delivering business value sooner. This disconnect will need to be challenged over time. The agile adoption can start but if the teams are not able to move to value stream improvements the adoption will likely fail and the most effective Agilists involved will likely leave that company – a double failure.
For this reason, it would be best to create a ‘dual operating system‘ where the agile team is able to work outside current organizational norms. 

Can Agile Concept be of some help to the Students to be better self-organized with effective speed and help in efficient/continuous scaling up in their studies & career?

I think personal Kanban would be an excellent tool for students to help organize their work.

How students & beginners can learn Agile in a practical manner & practice it?
I think our schools can do a much better job in introducing agile. As with industry, Agile is often seen simply as an alternative to a waterfall SDLC. This approach fails to address the human systems side of agile or the deep technical practices necessary for longer term agile success.

That said, I think Scrum is relatively easy to learn and practice within a few weeks with appropriate training and a coach or mentor to guide the team.

What are the standard, Advanced Agile practices?
I do not think there are ‘standard, advanced’ agile practices. Depending on your context there are some interesting practices that advanced agile teams often follow such as: ‘no estimates’, Continuous Delivery, ‘mob programming’ and Kanban.

Do the Agile Alliance have an organized structure or presence in India?
The Agile Alliance is based in North America. Over the past few years it has helped the Brazilian agile community to build an Agile Alliance Brazil. This is the only formal Agile Alliance organization outside North America. The Agile Alliance fosters agility on an international scale through programs and sponsorships.