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Agility for a Sustainable World: Why We Need to Redefine The Meaning of Agility

May 21, 2021

This year was the 20th anniversary of the Agile Manifesto for Software Development, and in many sectors, agile ways of working have long since become the standard. There are also many explanations of what agility really means, but there is agreement on the core meaning: focus on customers and their needs. Our own explanation of agility so far has been "the skill to turn customer needs into value flexibly, creatively and quickly while managing risk in complex environments."


Why We Need to Redefine Agility

That said, if we broaden our view and look not only at individual companies and their customers but take a global perspective, the question arises as to whether two essential aspects are missing: The societies in which companies and their customers find themselves and our planet on which we live and do business.

We must also accept the global climate crisis as a real threat and as a symptom of many worldwide social, economic and ecological problems. This is also because for a long time we have been meeting customer needs largely at the expense of other people and our planet.[1] This shows how urgently we need to become more sustainable. For us, this means that we need a broader, systemic understanding of agility that includes not only the economic dimension but also the social and environmental dimensions.

That is why we are expanding our definition of agility. As a starting point, we are using our previous explanation and the definition of <i>sustainable development:</i> "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" [2]. Within these guardrails, which are becoming tighter on a planet with nearly 8 billion people [3] and an ever-growing population, we urgently need to make our lives and our economy sustainable.


A Broader Definition of Agility

Given these complex and urgent [4] human challenges, we have created this broader definition:

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