Feeling exhausted “running” Agile? Perhaps it’s time to stop and realign with its values

In my last article introducing Agile, I have shared how some people in teams and organizations were simply “doing” Agile, but they are not “being” Agile. The reason why this is happening is because they have lost sight of the values and principles behind the Agile Manifesto.

These values and principles are what drive the Agile Mindset, not just doing the practices and rituals in fixed ways according to Agile frameworks.

I also shared that the Agile Mindset can be applied by anyone or any team in an organization, no matter what their role or background is and even you, as an individual due to its strong and meaningful values.

Firstly, why are Values important?

Every single individual, teams and organizations are making hundreds of decisions every day. The impact of misaligned decisions seem to be small when seen from the smallest instance, but it becomes more evident when you start to see it over a period of time or from a larger perspective.

Values help us grow and improve by serving as a guide for us to make decisions that deliver the outcomes what we wish to achieve.

When values are used to make decisions, we are making a deliberate choice to focus on what is more important. Values when shared within a team or organization, also build unity and self-organization within the group.

The values and principles I have identified from the Agile Manifesto and its 12 Principles include:

  • Adapting to change
  • Progressive delivery of value
  • Continuous learning and improvement
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Openness, courage and respect
  • Developing trust and giving support
  • Technical excellence
  • Sustainability

Let’s have a closer look at them!

Adapting to change

The most emphasized value for Agile is adapting to change. The people who came up with the Agile Manifesto chose the term Agile because it captured the essence of adaptiveness and response to change which they felt was important to their approach.

The manifesto values being able to respond to changes over following a plan. It welcomes changing requirements as Agile processes harness change as a competitive advantage.

The fact is, situations and consequences change all the time and life itself and world events are the biggest teacher of that to us. And the best way to respond to change is to have an adaptive mindset.

Progressive delivery of value

Agility values delivering something that works, over comprehensive planning. Continuous and frequent delivery of value becomes the highest priority. This means that we get to see the outcome of whatever we are working on within a shorter timescale. In Scrum, a product increment is typically delivered every 2 weeks.

Instead of spending time over-planning an effort or holding ourselves back from taking action and making progress, we deliver something, even if it is a slice of its full value. Delivering something that works becomes the primary measure of progress.

Continuous learning and improvement

By having frequent progress, it enables a valuable feedback loop for learning and improvement. This create opportunities for you and teams to become more effective on a regular basis and we will be able to tune and adjust our vision, goals, processes and dynamics accordingly.

One thing that I observed lacking for myself and teams I have worked with in the past is the lack of drive for continuous improvement. In the past, before I got exposed to Agile, I have tended to be fixed in terms of my perspectives and approaches. As a result, I wasn’t very good at receiving feedback and it created a lot of negativity and blocked me and others from making progress, adapting or learning new things.

Communication and collaboration

The Agile manifesto values individuals and interactions over the emphasis on processes and tools. The purpose is to allow people to drive the business and delivery of value, instead of allowing processes and tools to dictate how it should be done.

Agility sees value in people working together daily throughout the product’s development. Face-to-face conversation is shared as the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within the team.

In Scrum, teams will have a short meeting called the Daily Scrum to communicate everyone’s progress and share if there is anything blocking them from progress. This creates opportunities for teammates to collaborate and help each other overcome their challenges.

Openness, courage and respect

Openness, courage and respect are not elaborated in the Agile Manifesto, but it is added as Scrum values in its framework. I’ve decided to include this here because of how I’ve observed myself and others needing these values in order to communicate and collaborate effectively with others.

Being Agile is about having the openness to talk about your work and challenges you experience. This doesn’t need to be just technical challenges, it can be interpersonal challenges faced between team members too. I’ve experienced misunderstanding and misalignment on expectations in the past, leading to unresolved conflicts due to lack of openness and transparency.

In order to be open about your challenges, you need to overcome your fears and have the courage to speak about them. This means having the courage to be vulnerable. It puts you in space where you could be seen as someone wrong, needing help or struggling emotionally.

Practicing Agility requires respect, not just for others, but also for yourself. Not every individual is going to have equal capabilities, strengths and perspectives so it is important to be able to be accepting of others, not be judgmental and be in the space of others.

Trust, support and motivation

Agility is formed around trust and having the confidence for individuals to get the job done. Trust is not an easy thing to gain, especially once it is broken. Thus, the importance of practicing collaboration and communicating to each other with openness, courage and respect.

Continuous support and great environments, physically and culturally is required for yourself and others to continue growing and delivering value. Forgiveness and letting go of the past are going to be useful to strengthen and maintain the ability to create support and positive environments.

Great teams have motivated individuals. Make sure that whatever that you are delivering interests you and make sure that your team mates are motivated to work on delivering value with you too. Keep yourself and each other motivated by practicing gratitude as you make progress with your achievements and receive support and help from others.

Technical Excellence

One of the 12 Principles talks about having continuous attention to technical excellence and good design in order to enhance agility.

Mastering technical skills is something that takes a lot of time and patience, but gives a lot of return when we can see increased outcomes in the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of our work.

Software developers practice of pair programming. Two software developers work on the same code together, bringing different prior experiences and explore different approaches to their task. This significantly improves the quality of the work and reduces the changes of poor choices or methods.

I believe that we can do that with people of different skills too as we learn and improve our knowledge and skills together.

Sustainability

Agile processes promote sustainability. Every individual should be able to maintain a constant pace, establishing a frequent, repeatable and consistent speed that they create and deliver value. In short, Agility values both short-term and long-term considerations.

Self-organized and cross-skilled teams are created so that everyone is capable of contributing work independently. This increases the bus factor, reducing the risk of work is stalled due to the lack of knowledge and skills between teammates.

Developers also practice improvement of the design, implementation and extensibility of their software through code refactoring, which restructures their existing code without changing its functionality.

So, are you just “doing” Agile or are you “being” Agile?

So there it is! An elaboration of the values and principles of the Agile Mindset I have identified from the Agile Manifesto and its 12 Principles.

What do you think of them? Will you be able to reflect how is you or your team practicing these values? Are you just “doing” Agile, or are you “being” Agile?

I hope you will be able to apple these values not just in your work setting, but into everything in your personal life too!

I am a UX Designer with a strong passion to fuse frameworks of Self-Awareness and Agility together — iamthye.com