Jugaad – India’s Agile style

I’ve been reading about India’s concept of Jugaad, possibly poised to enter our buzzword vocabulary since it came up in the context of what Obama can learn from that country.

Where the Agile Manifesto starts with “Individuals and Interactions” the Harvard Business Review kicks off Jugaad with “Thrift not Waste”.

All too often I’ve seen Agile work because a scarcity of resources (money, time or knowledge) pushed an otherwise waterfall loving group into giving Agile a shot. The tenants of Jugaad resonate with me as a more general philosophy about how to get things accomplished then Agile’s focus on “working software”.

Agile Manifesto

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

Jugaad (quoted from HBR):

The Hindi term roughly translates as “overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources”. We call it the art of creative improvisation.

Thrift not waste. Tackle scarcity.
Inclusion, not exclusion. diversity of communities
Bottom-up participation, not top-down command and control.
Flexible thinking and action, not linear planning.

It feels like we are talking about the same thing. Get a team together and empower them to solve the necessary problem. Nowhere is there a concept of ‘throw money at the problem’ or ‘hire more consultants’. Plan for change and change plans in order to achieve success.

I’m on a barcamp high today. We could have had a conference with a big budget, focused our marketing on the demographic of web designers/developers, planned it from an executive committee and wrote a gant chart tracking the critical path from start to finish. It would have been a big show, but it would not have been barcamp and it would not have been awesome.

Software engineers learned that top down does not work. Indian’s entrepreneurs espousing that top down does not work.

Spend a few moments today to consider if you think top down, centralized control of food production is a good idea: http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/s-510-is-hissing-in-the-grass/


  1. Joe Campbell

    I would say that Jugaad feels like a clarification of the agile manifesto that most agile practitioners would say was always there. I personally would say it is usually the part of agile that people either “get” or they don’t. When they don’t you get watered down agile, or scrumfall/waterscrum. Have managers really be burned SO BAD in the past that trust of the people they hire to do the job is so foreign?

  2. Aaron

    Joe – I like that perspective.

    I think trust issues are at the core here, but I’ve seen a bigger story here. I have to think about it, but this kind of trust is more complicated then it seems. People generally want to do the right thing but without the whole shebang of clear vision, strategy and empowerment you can’t trust them to do right.

  3. Arpit

    So in Hindi, jugad actually is a slang-ish word meaning to pull a miracle and do something that has been declared undoable. In my head it’s closer to “hack a solution” more than anything else.