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What is Agile? And what is the difference between Agile and Scrum?

Agile Mindset

AUTHOR: Malene Marie Bendixen Jacobsen, Agile Coach

We are agile, we do agile, no I think we do Scrum, or are we Scrum …? What is the difference?

Too often we meet people that do not know the difference between agile and Scrum. Do we do agile or are we Scrum, or maybe both?

Before the 1990s the software industry was dominated by what we now call ‘heavyweight’ development methods that are regulated, planned and micro-managed. The industry started to realize that developing a system is not an easy process that can be planned in detail and then executed. The world changes too quickly for that. As a result, during the 1990s a lot of what we call ‘lightweight’ development methods were created, for example, Rapid Application Development (RAD, 1991), Unified Process (UP, 1994), Scrum (1994) Extreme Programming (XP, 1996), etc.

Only years later, in 2001, seventeen software developers that had been working or founded some of the ‘lightweight’ software development methods, got together and created the agile manifesto 4 values and 12 principles:


So, what is agile? Agile is a mindset that drives behaviour for software development and therefore not a thing you do. Scrum, XP, UP are all development frameworks that belong to the agile mindset.

So, what is the difference between the mindset and the development frameworks?

As we had just learned, the agile manifesto is a mindset/behaviour around how to approach software development. It is important to understand that it does not give any tools or guidance on how to get the job done. The guidance and tools come from agile frameworks (Scrum, UP, XP, etc.). The agile frameworks align with the values of the agile manifesto.

But are we then both being Scrum and agile?

Scrum is the most common and well known agile framework and often the reason why it gets mentioned together with agile. Scrum was founded by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in 1994 and since 2010 the Scrum Guide that defines the official version of Scrum has existed.. It is important to notice that the Scrum Guide still gets updated.

Since Scrum is a framework, you cannot be Scrum, but you can DO Scrum, and if you follow the official Scrum Guide you can say you are doing Scrum.

Therefore, for you to be able to answer the question, what is it we are doing? Go back to your organization and see if you have implemented the agile mindset, if yes, then you are agile. And are you following the official Scrum Guide? If so, then you do scrum.

Please note that because there are so many different agile frameworks people have over time taken pieces from the different frameworks and made their own mix – but then you do not do Scrum, but your own version of an agile framework.