Welcome everyone to the first in my Back to Basics series: Individuals and Interactions: Agile Manifesto Value #1. If this is your first look at the Back to Basics posts, or want a general overview of the Agile Manifesto and its principles, please check this post.
It’s easy to look at a company/department/team as a box or machine. You input the instructions and materials(most often money) and out comes a product. Of course, this is not really the case. What ever this group is, it is made up of individuals. With Agile, we value each individual for all of their real and potential contributions. Without the individuals, the group does not exist, and nothing can happen. Humans are not resources, and shouldn’t be treated as such. However, individuals working alone can only get you so far, which leads to…
Interactions are fun. Much like chemical reactions, we take individuals, and mix them together. The results can be mundane, or they can be amazing, or even explosive! This stems from a single idea: communication is the key to success. The frequency and value of interactions and communication between individuals determines just how good any output from said individuals will be. If your people don’t interact, then no reactions can take place. If people do interact, then as with chemistry, the whole can become much more than only the sum of its parts.
Interaction Killers: Processes, Tools and the Oxymoron of “Agile Processes”
So if we value the interaction of individuals, what does that have to do with processes and tools, and why do we value them less? First off, let’s be clear: there is still value in processes, and there is still value in tools. However, when processes and tools interfere with individuals interacting, the processes and tools lose their value. Let’s take some concrete examples. Jira, RallyOn and the like are great tools. Many an Agile team have used them to great success. However, if a team were to allow these tools to interfere with interactions, say by using task tracking in place of speaking face to face, the tool looses its value. Strictly defined processes, the cornerstone of the Waterfall SDLC, can destroy interaction, as we continue to act on others instead of interacting together.
So what is an Agile Process? I’ve seen it stated that there are no “Agile Processes”, only Agile teams and the environment for the Agile team to be Agile. I believe that teams will come up with their own processes internally, and if done with an Agile mindset, these processes will define how that team is Agile. There is no one size fits all process that will make a team Agile. Even Scrum, the most popular incarnation of Agile in software, is just a framework. It’s a restrictive framework which enforces the values of Agile (including Individuals and Interactions), but the processes the team comes up with to be Agile are their own.
Summing it up
Agile values the interactions of individuals over anything that will cause interactions to be interfered with. There are great tools and processes out there, but if they interfere with people working together as a team and interacting, they can be damaging.
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