And, along the journey this past year, reading through some more random bits of Alistair Cockburn's blog and Martin Fowler's blog (which I always find nuggets in) it occurred to me that Alistair mentioned during his Heart of Agile advanced agile training course a few things.
To the best of my recollection Alistair told the story of how on day 1 of the 2001 first meeting of the 17 folks who wrote the Agile Manifesto, Alistair was facilitating the choice of the word to describe what they were trying to describe. 8 people diverged, and then converged onto "agile". 8 people diverged and converged onto "adaptive".
I wonder now, looking back, what would have happened to the software industry if "adaptive" instead had won the final coin toss / selection process. Of course adaptive is a harder "sell" as it seems so ordinary and so ... common sense.
And that's my point. Yes, "quick and nimble" is the right word to describe what is desirable from any (not just software delivery) process. That would be awesome if all processes we encountered in our moment to moment experience was quick and nimble.
And people would totally freak out with happiness if the process was also adaptive to the specific context it was applied in, correctly by the people applying it.
And that's what the promise of agile is, adapative-quick-nimble. Able to move in a direction at speed, and change direction (due to an unanticipated target movement) without loss of speed. And, achieving that as a organisation of people where information is real-time communicated and hence looking at the organisation as a social organism, it becomes much more responsive to its environment it operates or lives in. That's where the challenge and the benefits lie. The organisation/organism that adapts fastest and best to its changing environment lives to see another day, and if it gets so good at being responsive that it actually achieves an insight into the requirements of the future, and achieves that before any competitor, then its thrives to outlive them another day.
Because marketing is a zero-sum game. Those who learn the right thing the fastest, lead, and then win.
For more nuts, see What Is Agile For