Editor's note: Bill Murray is a startup mentor/innovation catalyst with American Family Insurance.

For as much talk as there is in marketing research circles about agile forms of research, there seems to be just as much uncertainty about what agile is – and isn’t. 

Help is here. I work with teams ranging from early-stage start-ups to corporate product development to do consumer research and product design. Agile is the way I help these teams accomplish more than they could ever imagine. Let’s take a walk together and examine a few misconceptions of agile and how the right frame of mind can create an environment of unprecedented value delivery.

Cutting through the agile buzz starts with understanding what agile is. It’s a mind-set, not a tool set. It’s a very intentional way of looking at the work at hand. Well-intentioned misperceptions of agile paint it as a path to working faster and getting more done, all in a two-week sprint. While there are kernels of truth in these ideas, in practice they will fail to deliver the intended value without the right mind-set – just as tactics fail to deliver business results in the absence of strategy.

Other misunderstandings linger as well. Agile is sometimes seen as lacking a “plan.” Agile “plans” focus on value delivery outcomes instead of specific outputs. As a result, leaders who are accountable for product outputs may resist agile work and its agnosticism of how that value is delivered. Without a clear road map to a static output, leaders are often uneasy about the ambiguity of agile work. 

Managers concerned about the lack of a plan can also become uncomfortable about losing control of the team’s work. This is, in fact, one of the advantages of agile work. Traditional management control of work often takes the form of directing teams to a specific output. Unfortunately, the manager is often too far from the customer to have the right perspective...