Decoding Agile Manifesto Values

Many of the teams and leaders I coached struggle with relating to the Agile Manifesto in a meaningful way.  We value the items on the left over those on the right.  Great!  Wonderful.  Huh?  So what does it actually mean? How do I go about decoding the agile manifesto values and use them in my everyday interactions?

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools = Alignment

Interact all the time and in any way that makes you comfortable, effective, and efficient.  We want individuals to be open and empowered.  Processes, including meetings, are kept to an extreme minimum and must prove their value each and every time. Recurring meetings other than ceremonies are at the top of this list. Tools should provide value and be information radiators that further empower the team.  Any tool that cannot do this or hampers interactions should be removed.  This is how we can all align with our values.

Working software over comprehensive documentation = Value Management

Value providing value to our customers and anything else is a waste of time and focus.  Every story should be clearly stating who the customer is and why this is valuable to them.  Internal roles are rarely customers and should only be used in a manner to empower the actual customer.  Software can be self-documenting and intuitive.  Focus on how we deliver value, and anything else is either adding to that, empowering it, or should be addressed.

Client collaboration over contract negotiation = Leadership

Servant leaders are leaders that truly serve, protect, and empower the teams.  We, as leaders, do not write the software, or even manage the day to day; or if you are, you need to stop as that is not leadership it is management. As leaders, and not managers, we create an environment of trust, empowerment, and openness, where failure is expected and managed and used to succeed.  If you do not occasionally fail or are uncomfortable, you are not pushing boundaries or stretching and that will ultimately lead to failure that cannot be mitigated.  Leaders, serve your teams.  Listen to them and their needs.  Do not dictate to them but influence and empower.  If you ever have to pull rank to get something done, you have completely failed as a leader.

Responding to change over following a plan = Continuous Improvement

Easy to understand, but hard to implement.  Look at your processes, tools, meetings, organizational structure, office environment, communication(s), leadership, values, focus, and teams and constantly, every day at the least, make changes with the intent to improve.  The changes may not all work, but you are trying and if you are following the other values, then you are doing it with the support of your teams, and teams respond to that.  Have Product Owners sit with teams, reduce meetings, allow experimentation and learning, and always improve.  If it doesn’t work, cut your losses rapidly and try something else.  Be transparent so the teams understand what is being tried, why, and what is expected of them.  A miss on expectations is one of the top reasons teams fail to achieve success and team members leave organizations.  It isn’t that they do not deliver, they do. They just don’t do it in the way, method, or timeframe that was expected. Don’t believe me?  Is there an attrition spike after performance reviews?  Then there is a gap between the actual and expressed expectations.

It is very possible, and should be encouraged, to decode the values for a given situation.  Context is still everything, and nothing is a silver bullet.