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Agile Values & Principles

The Agile Values and Principles are captured in the Agile Manifesto and formulated in 2001 by a group of forward-thinking professionals. Their goal was to redefine the approach to how software was developed. However, as the years have passed, it has become clear that Agile Values and Principles are not restricted to developing software. This illustrates the power of principles - they are transportable and can be applied to different contexts. The Agile Manifesto is no exception. Replace the word software with product or service, and the original values and principles hold true. This explains the rise in agility applied to many organisations where a product or service is created or provided.

As this article continues, I have slightly modified the original text. Wherever software or software development is written, I have replaced it with product or service. Let's see if it is still as powerful.

 The Manifesto begins with the following statement:

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

This statement emphasises that the Agile approach is an ongoing discovery, learning, and improvement journey derived from practical experience. The authors highlight that Agile is not a fixed set of rules but a mindset that evolves as team members collaborate and share knowledge.

Following this statement, the Manifesto outlines four core values that emphasise the importance of a flexible, collaborative, and customer-centric mindset:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

Working solutions over comprehensive documentation.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

Responding to change over following a plan.

After presenting the four values, the Agile Manifesto concludes with the following statement:

"While there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more."

This statement acknowledges that the items on the right (processes, tools, documentation, and plans) have their place and importance. However, the authors emphasise that the items on the left (individuals, interactions, working solutions, customer collaboration, and responsiveness to change) should be given higher priority. This balance ensures that the Agile approach delivers customer value and fosters effective collaboration among team members.

Let's take a look at each of the four value statements in more detail.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

The Agile Manifesto prioritises human interactions, fostering communication and collaboration among team members. While processes and tools are essential for project management, the Agile philosophy recognises that a team's ability to work together effectively is the foundation of successful product or service development. This value encourages organisations to create a culture that nurtures creativity, innovation, and effective teamwork. This statement does not say, "We are agile - no more processes or tools".

Working solutions over comprehensive documentation.

Traditional approaches to creating something new often require extensive documentation before any work begins. The Agile Manifesto shifts the focus toward delivering working solutions in incremental stages. This value emphasises the importance of producing functional products or services in increments that provide value to customers rather than spending excessive time on extensive documentation. Continuous feedback and iterative improvements ensure the final outcome aligns with customer needs and expectations. This statement does not say, "We are agile - no more documentation".

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

The Agile Manifesto highlights the importance of actively engaging with customers continuously. By involving customers as partners, the team can ensure that the product or service delivers what the customer truly needs. Instead of focusing on rigid contract terms, Agile encourages collaboration and flexibility to accommodate the evolving needs of customers and the market. This statement does not say, "We are agile - no more agreements or contracts".

Responding to change over following a plan.

Change is an inevitable part of product and service development. The Agile Manifesto acknowledges that adhering strictly to a pre-defined plan can be counterproductive. Instead, Agile promotes the ability to adapt and respond to changes as they arise. This value encourages teams to remain flexible and open-minded, recognising that requirements and priorities may shift as new information comes to light. This statement does not say, "We are agile - no more planning".

In summary, the Agile Manifesto is a set of guiding values that prioritise adaptability, collaboration, and customer satisfaction in product and service development. By focusing on individuals and interactions, producing functional solutions, engaging with customers, and embracing change, the Agile approach aims to deliver more efficient and effective customer solutions. 

Does that sound like something that applies only to the world of software development? Absolutely not. Any organisation in any industry would benefit from the approach described above.

But that is not all; there's more. Accompanying the four values statements are the 12 Agile Principles. These are arguably more powerful than the values statements, as they provide more guidance and direction. What's more, they are principles and, therefore, adaptable to many contexts. Again, where software appears in the original text, it has been replaced with product or service.

Here is a brief overview of the 12 Agile principles:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable products or services.

  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in the day. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.

  3. Deliver working products or services frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

  4. Business people and creators must work together daily throughout the project.

  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team is face-to-face conversation.

  7. Working products or services is the primary measure of progress.

  8. Agile processes promote sustainable work. The sponsors, creators, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

  10. Simplicity - the art of maximising the amount of work not done - is essential.

  11. The best solutions, ideas and designs emerge from self-organising teams.

  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

The twelve principles are explained in more detail in subsequent articles. But hopefully, you can see that these principles emphasise customer satisfaction, adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement, providing a comprehensive framework for Agile product development and service delivery.

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