Let’s analyze the 4 values described in the Agile Manifesto to reveal how simple sentences can convey significant messages for your Business Agility journey (note that while there is value in the items on the right, you should value more the items on the left):
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Teams can consist of several members with different skill sets working together effectively to deliver something valuable to customers. Each member’s contribution and ability to solve problems is valuable. Communication must be clear and effective, with no egos, in order to find more ways to innovate. Processes and tools are important, but remember that a fool with a tool is still a fool. If a team relies too much on a set of processes, the team is less responsive to change and they can start losing sight of what really matters to customers.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation (replace “software” with any knowledge work that is delivered to customers)
- When using the waterfall model, enormous amounts of time were spent in technical requirements, test plans, interface design documents and the required approvals. As time goes by, the documentation becomes outdated and must be updated frequently. This caused long delays during development without producing much value to the customers. Documentation is important and needed to explain how and why a system is built, but the primary goal is always to create software and business value, and not documents.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Using again the waterfall model as a comparison, customers negotiate the requirements with great detail before any work is started. The customer is involved before development begins and after it’s completed, but not during the process. In Agile, the customer is in turn engaged with the team so the needs can be tested and matched throughout the development process. Collaboration and communication are key to discover where lies the most value, but beware that having a contract is still important, rights and responsibilities are defined to everyone’s understanding.
- Responding to change over following a plan
- People frequently change their priorities and the perception of the problem domain. The business environment and market conditions also can change. However, organizations usually see change as an expense, meaning that it should be avoided at all costs. Hence there is a false sense of security that a detailed list of features is the solution to reduce this risk. To be Agile, an organization and its teams should embrace these variations positively because change is a reality and what the team produces must reflect and be aligned with the business needs.