It is easy to say that demonstrating behaviors consistent with the values and principles of the Manifesto is proof of agility but this test leaves significant wiggle room for interpretation and for exception cases which fall through the cracks of the four values and twelve principles.
It is also somewhat of a cop-out to plagiarize Justice Potter Stewart's famous phrase "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of behaviors, practices or methods I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["agile"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the team involved in this case is not that." This method opens the door to framework fanaticism and furthering the conceit of "there's only one right way to be agile".
Here are three questions you might consider asking:
- Is the team improving across the three dimensions of delivering business value early & frequently, improving product quality and making people awesome (as per Modern Agile)? A team might be capable of improving their performance along one or even two out of the three dimensions, but this often comes at the cost of the third. One could consider these three dimensions to be an agile equivalent of the project management iron triangle.
- Are regular feedback loops well established for both the product itself and delivery process and do these loops result in changes to the "what" and the "how"? Whether these loops follow a fixed cadence (e.g. reviews & retrospectives tied to the the heartbeat of a sprint) or are performed on a just-in-time basis when a continuous flow delivery approach is utilized, they demonstrate that the team possesses the humility and understanding that there will always been the need to inspect and adapt.
- Is there evidence of the team truly self-organizing when it comes to how their work is done as well as how they interact within the team and with key stakeholders? Key characteristics such as courage, respect and collaboration should be evident.
Agility should never be treated as "the" goal but rather as a catalyst towards achieving one or more business goals. But defining what it means to "be" agile in terms of the outcomes we want to realize can help us understand whether we are making a difference or not.