Agile and set theory

Agile and set theory - manager review code with a software developer

Is it possible your organization is practicing a branch of mathematics called set theory? Set theory studies sets or collections of objects. In set theory you have bounded sets and centered sets.

If you’re familiar with these then you’ll know that bounded sets are all about boundaries and being static. Centered sets, on the other hand, are dynamic and speak to movement towards a particular direction.

Many organizations and teams fall into the trap of applying one or the other. They become restrictive in applying rigid methodology or they attempt to be all-inclusive in order to achieve a set of results. The truth is both sets are inadequate on their own. This is why the agile manifesto still makes sense as a value based mindset for organizations. It practiced emphasis not exclusion. The key word in each of the four value statements in the manifesto is the word “over” – emphasizing something over something else without minimizing the value of both.

We need both; bounded practices that keep us focused and disciplined and centered practices that allow us to be nimble and experiment.


Defining the things that must be bounded (static) and those that need to be centered (dynamic) is a key to setting yourself up for greater success.