Is Agility a Management Theory?

All the theories in the Business Management literature have emerged with innovative approaches to manufacturing processes that have altered their working models. That is why business management books still only teach for certain periods. The biggest reason is that the popular practices lose their popularity after a while and leave their place to a new trend in a short time. Another explanation is that in today’s dynamic business climate, it is impossible to find answers to all our questions with a single management paradigm.

So is Agility a management fad? At this point, if we look at the criteria defined to be a management fashion or enthusiasm:

  • Bringing a new jargon to existing business processes
  • Need for an external consultant for adaptation
  • Certification and evaluation processes issued by agencies for a fee
  • Changing existing titles by this trendy
  • Claim to improve performance over a metric defined by fashion itself
  • It is an internal sponsoring department or individual that has an impact due to the
    application of fashion
  • Trendy words and complex expressions

When we consider these parameters, we could understand why the academic world has yet to identify agility as a management paradigm. We see that many topics that occupied the agenda for some periods ignored in a short time. The real question here is: Is agility different? Why Is Agility Different?

To understand why Agility is different, it will be enough to look at its process. Agility as a software development model did not begin with the Agile Manifesto, contrary to common opinion.

In a report titled “Strategy for Industrialized Expert Agencies,” prepared at the request of the American Congress in 1991, Lehign University Iaccoca Institute professors Goldman, Preiss, Nagel, and Dove described “agility” as one of the capabilities needed for contemporary development. The current mass production system, according to this study, is insufficient to achieve gradual change, particularly in light of the evolution of competition in Asia, which has established a high degree of flexibility. To meet the needs created by these new competitiveness factors, the study concluded that a new production method based on organizational agility must invented.

Shortly thereafter, AMEF (Agile Manufacturing Enterprise Forum) established to encourage the dissemination and use of this perspective in American companies. In particular, the IT and Telecommunications industry started to apply the agility concept in the mid-1990s. In the early 2000s, Microsoft started using the slogan “Agile Business” in its advertisements.

In this age, “agility” has become an aim that everyone is attempting to accomplish in various ways, but it has taken a long time for agility to become a holistic term that encompasses the entire organization. In this context, it may be fitting to describe agility as the evolution of a concept that evolved as a result of serious study in order to respond to evolving world circumstances, rather than disappearing fashions in the short term. According to the definition of “agile,” this process continues to evolve in response to changing requirements of the day. Our customer-oriented business world today is in line with the agile production demand defined for mass production. As with the egg and chicken relationship, there is a dependency relationship between digitalization and agility. The agility journey that began with production agility has evolved into a mindset that affects every department and process within the organization; it has also evolved into a skill that people must adapt to their own lives.

Today, theorists and practitioners are still not on the same page. Due to the rapidly increased number of institutes, agencies, certifications, consultants, and the different solutions offered in the practical world, it doesn’t look like it will happen soon. But “Agility” has already taken a very long way and has managed to prove that it is not a short-term fashion. More, we do not have another model that fits the requirements of our age. This is not because agility is the only option; rather, because of its structure, it has evolved into a backbone that can adapt to changing needs and accommodate a wide range of concepts. In other words, every new solution proposal can adapted to the concept of agility. For example, “Design Thinking”, which emerged as a completely different concept, has become a part of business agility today. HR processes have acquired agility as a compass. While innovation used to be the domain of a single department, today agility pervades all business processes.

Many “agile” solution proposals, that not meeting the expectations, will of course disappear in time. But it seems that agility will be at the core of our business world for a long time. As a result, in the medium term, that agility will become a topic covered in depth in business management textbooks.