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Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Sprints, user stories, definitions of done, daily stand-ups, backlog grooming, sprint planning, retrospectives, burn-down charts, pair programming, technical spikes, continuous integration, test driven development, specification by example, refactoring…These words are now commonplace in our daily activities as IT professionals. We have lots of 'doing Agile' going on in projects.

But, so what?

As an industry we often get focused on the processes and the tools, and forget about the more important stuff, like people and business value. 'Doing Agile' is a waste of time if it doesn't help our organization be better by generating more value, or being more flexible or resilient to change, or creating great environments for people to work.

In other words, 'doing Agile' is only really of value if it helps organization to achieve the state of 'being Agile'.

Moving to 'being Agile' 

The Agile manifesto warns us against focusing on 'doing Agile', with its fundamental value of: "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools"

Instead of focusing on the processes, practices and tools for 'doing Agile' we need to be looking at the individuals and interactions, or more simply put the 'people'. When we focus on people then we start thinking about fundamental and important areas such as culture, leadership, behavior, trust, change, resistance, and creating engaged team members.

Culture, change, and management has been shown to be the main challenges for organizations adopting Agile. Challenges experience adopting and scaling Agile include:
  • Company philosophy or culture at odds with core agile values
  • Lack of management support
  • General organizational resistance to change.

So it follows that if we are going to be successful with Agile, we need to move some energy and attention away from perfecting the 'doing Agile' piece and start giving much more effort to the fundamental people issues of 'being Agile'. Typically 'doing Agile' might create a 20% improvement.

Conclusion! Where to start

Culture, leadership, change – all this people stuff – it is hard. There is no silver bullet. Your organization needs to plot its own course based on what works for your particular circumstances, goals and constraints.


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