The Agile Manifesto Principles Revisited – Part 2

Last week I started talking about the Agile Manifesto principles. I believe that we tend to forget, sometimes, what the principles encourage us to do, so a refresher seemed in order. This week we’ll be talking about the second set of four principles, so buckle up and let’s go.

Principle #5

Our fifth principle is:

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


A Motivated Individual
A Motivated Individual

This is often a change in how companies organize work and teams. Most companies define projects – a set of work to do – and then figure out who they want to work on it. They define what “tenths” of an engineer or tester they want on the team and budget appropriately.


In agile, though, we find the best results come from teams that are together for a long time. We then figure out what work to drive to them based on their skills and experience. Again – this can be a huge change from how a company is used to working. But we know it works better than the alternative.

Principle #6

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

The main reason here is that people get a lot of context from more than just words. Facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues help us understand not just what someone is saying but what they’re feeling. Face-to-face communication helps enable all of that additional context so we can be more open and honest with one another.

For most companies, this means putting your teams in the same space. Co-location is both hugely beneficial to teams and disruptive to most facilities departments. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen with getting teams to sit in the same space is working with facilities teams. This is primarily because they’re unused to the requests; they’re far more used to dealing with people wanting private spaces. When we ask to create more open areas or bullpen-style spaces, it can be challenging. Be patient with them.

A byproduct of co-location is that working in pairs or collaboratively (which I wrote about previously). Overhearing conversations and being able to jump in (or out) can be beneficial. And it’s easier to bring someone into a conversation if they’re sitting right behind you.

Principle #7

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

This should come as a no-brainer. Without software, we have no product. We could have the best user documentation on the planet but if there’s no software, it’s just a good read. We need software to sell and our software should define our progress. It doesn’t matter how far along in our schedule we are – what matters is what software we’ve completed.

Principle #8

Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.


Sustainable Pace in Practice
Sustainable Pace in Practice

This is one of biggest sticking points in almost every enterprise I’ve transformed. There is such a culture around working “a little extra” to make up for lost time, for unfinished features, for that last bit of testing that needs to be done before release. And it’s all wrong, wrong, wrong. I just wrote a whole post about this a couple of weeks ago. The benefits of creating and maintaining a sustainable pace are well-documented – we just need to continue to evangelize to make this a reality for all workers.


Closing Thoughts

These four Agile Manifesto principles are incredibly important to helping enable sustainable transformations. Adhering to the values is critical, but the principles help us implement the how. In much the same way that a Product Owner brings the “what” to the team and the team figures out the “how”, the Manifesto brings us the what and provides guidance on the how. And that helps us on our journey to be agile.

Feliz entrenamiento, mis amigos! (Happy coaching, my friends!)

Have questions?

Bill DeVoe