It is quite usual nowadays to hear about a company, department or group being “agile”. They claim to use such a method to improve performance, to adapt and change on business needs… But what do they really mean with that?
They are referring to the Agile Manifesto. This creed can be covered by the following four principles:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Saying that you are agile is about “Being” agile as much as “Doing” agile. It’s a mindset, a behavior template to cope with the unexpected. This means we are not to dismiss those items on the “right” side of the list, but saying we put more value on the “left” side. Relaxing the formality of a team it’s a method to improve its performance, but not about reducing quality or the faultlessness of the product.
Let’s elaborate a bit on each principle.
First, we all are people. Behind each email, each meeting request, each required change, each demand, petition and explanation, there is a person. One such as we are. And all of us involved in the project, we’re working together, we’re making something: creating, as a team. Instead of writing a lengthy email, try standing up and talk to that person. Or just make a quick call on the phone.
The second principle relies on the thought of NOT dismissing the left-side value. It’s not that documentation is useless (quite the contrary, specially over time). It’s about making comprehensive documentation that is easy to read, that details no more than necessary the process or the tool. And then, that very documentation can be expanded over time, but no more than what it’s required of it.
Now, it’s not like we do not need any contracts. In fact, they are an essential tool for every business. However, the aim of the manifesto is sticking to the spirit of the contract, and aiming to conceive the best outcome we can deliver. The contract should be more than a way to obtain money: think of it as a device to create value by generating income.
Finally, we aren’t cheapening planning: as workers we need a road-map, we cannot stick to daily spontaneous work. However, we have to keep in mind that changes will occur as we advance. It’s a fact we have to deal with: we must adapt to those changes, embrace it rather than fight it.
In conclusion: being agile should reflect on our daily work, on how we perform, but it cannot have an impact on the the work done.
Written by Álvaro G. Cachón