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Agile Manifesto – What it means to me

by Cherie Silas

The Agile Manifesto talks about uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. It goes on to state that through this work and helping others, four consistent agile values have developed, underpinned by twelve amazing agile principles. To me, these values go far beyond agile software development and set a platform for making decisions and forming thought processes. For me, these values form the foundation of agile mindset which spills over into every area of my life and the daily lives of the agile teams I interact with. Because my mindset is one of agility, I can’t help but take agile out into the world beyond software development. Every day I work with development teams and team members and see their agile mindset forming and affecting lives for the better.

We value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. This value represents that understanding that an agile life is filled with humans! Humans are interesting, complex, intelligent, diverse, ever changing, and FUN! Agile processes, agile practices are important and so are the tools that we use to get work done. But, when processes and tools become more valuable to us than the people who use those processes and tools they have over-stepped their boundary. Agile development is first and foremost human driven development. Processes and tools are created by people to solve problems, work more efficiently and to bring consistency. They should not be solitary confinement cells in the jails of agile methods where agile teams get locked in and become slaves to the thing we created to help us! We cannot replace motivated individuals with process and tools. Success is not a matter of adopting any one agile methodology, or method, or framework. It is not about “installing” Scrum or Kanban and calling it an Agile Organization. It is about the free flow of interactions and ideas.

When individuals interact with one another, creative ideas form, problems are solved, momentum is palpable, new perspectives are shared, growth occurs, and agile mindset shines. People learn from interacting with each other. We become more aware of the world around us and more aware of ourselves when we interact with individuals of various types. When we take people out of the equation and rely on the processes and tools, our work suffers. Processes and tools are meant to assist people and should be used in this manner. They should never become a replacement for interacting with people. 

Text messaging or virtual social networking are prime examples.  Texting is a tool that can be used for quick communication when direct conversations are impossible. When we allow this to take away our ability to speak to and directly interact with individuals we become slaves to the tool, and it has more (negative) power than originally intended.

We Value: Working software over comprehensive documentation To me, this value says: Let’s don’t just talk about it. Let’s do something about it! Let’s build it! The true agile mindset is not only that of continuous improvement, but also action driven. It does not matter which agile method, or agile methodology you choose. You can spend a lot of time writing a piece of comprehensive document that tells your product owners, customers, and stakeholders every detail of what you can do and what you want. You can write a beautiful status report with tables, charts, and diagrams. Or you can start cranking out working software, in small steps, at regular intervals – something your customers can try and experience beyond the flowery reports. You can also write just enough to make sure the common understanding of the product, changing requirements, development process is there. This continuous delivery of quality software ensures that we don’t waste our customer (or yours for that matter) time or money. This quality product, in customer’s hands is the primary measure, the true definition of success; this is the true embodiment of agility and agile mindset.

We Value: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Innovative solutions are not built by lawyers. They are built by motivated individuals on both sides of the table. I’ve got two choices when serving customers by delivering value. I can make them outline every detail of everything they will ever want from me and hold them to it rigidly charging them for every slight shift. OR, we can agree to create something great together, generate a virtuous learning cycle while creating a working product, while setting some boundaries in a contract that protects us both. We can start collaborating to ensure that we get to the finish line together while exercising our agile mindset, responding to changing conditions faster, and building that muscle of organizational agility in the process!

We Value: Responding to change over following a plan Plans are good. They are needed. They are necessary. But, change and ever-changing conditions are reality. There is not a single reason for us to stay oblivious and blind to the fact that the world around us will change before we know it. Requirements change, team members join and leave, market winds are fickle, budgets are given and taken away. 

Instead of being ruled by a rigid plan that we know becomes obsolete and unrealistic just moments after it is created, lets plan to change. Plan for a shorter timescale that we are more likely to be able to predict for success and deliver amazing results instead of multiple months or even years down the road. Plan for a small change that can be achieved in simple steps. Get feedback on that small change and don’t be mad when the customer realizes that they didn’t know what they wanted until they saw what you provided. At the end of the day those were just some simple steps that you can adjust or repeat as necessary to implement another small change. Be flattered that what you showed them generated enough interest and excitement that they could see it become something great that met their needs and provided great value. Isn’t that the end goal? If executing upon and controlling a plan is the primary goal, producing a valuable product that satisfies the customer must take a back seat to this objective. But, if customer satisfaction is the target our plans must be flexible. Agile even!