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Jan 30, 2024

Introduction to the Agile Manifesto

In earlier blog posts, we discussed the significance of business agility in our ever-changing VUCA world and provided a detailed explanation of the Agile Mindset. Although our understanding of the Agile Mindset goes beyond the principles of the Agile Manifesto, we committed to writing a series of articles exploring the principles and values it embodies.

In prior blog articles, we delved into the vital realm of business agility within our ever-changing VUCA world and painted a comprehensive portrait of the Agile Mindset. While our interpretation of the Agile Mindset extends beyond the tenets of the Agile Manifesto, we promised a series of articles that explore the principles and values it encapsulates. The Agile Manifesto not only furnishes invaluable insights into how an Agile Mindset may manifest in practice but also serves as the cornerstone for numerous agile frameworks, including SAFe.

This article serves as an introduction to the Agile Manifesto, a seminal document crafted in 2001 by a cadre of software developers, sharing their most effective practices. The manifesto comprises of 12 principles and 4 values. It's important to note that the values articulated in the Agile Manifesto are better characterized as value statements, favoring certain aspects over others while recognizing the significance of both.

In the forthcoming weeks, we will explore one principle or value every Tuesday. Given the interconnected nature of these principles and values, a linear exposition alone is unsatisfying. Hence, we have chosen to visualize them additionally on a Miro board.

These 12 principles collectively illuminate various facets of a singular concept: Agile Project Management. They provide a comprehensive overview, offering a tangible understanding of what Agility entails in the realms of people management and product/solution development.

Grounded in research within the field of organizational psychology, our content seeks to underscore the paradigm shift towards agile practices by drawing illuminating comparisons with the conventional waterfall project management approach.

So, settle in, unwind, and embark on an enlightening journey through the Agile Manifesto!

Part 1 – The Agile Team: Skills & Culture

The Agile Team embodies a distinctive set of skills and cultural attributes that distinguish it in dynamic work environments. These teams are self-organized and participative (Principle 11), allowing every member to contribute meaningfully to the collective effort. Open, non-judgmental communication and conflict resolution are prioritized, fostering an environment of constructive feedback rather than harsh criticism. This includes active & empathetic listening and may entail practices, such as non-violent communication.

Cross-functionality is a key characteristic, with team members possessing a breadth of skills while also cultivating deeper expertise in specific areas (“T-shaped skills”). They rally around a common purpose, fostering a sense of unity and direction. Mutual alignment and a shared focus on a common goal or vision serve as guiding principles, unifying the team's efforts towards a singular objective.

Self-efficacy is cultivated, instilling confidence in each member's ability to make valuable contributions. The team is reflexive (Principle 12), perpetually striving for relentless improvement collectively. Psychological safety prevails, ensuring that everyone can authentically be themselves, promoting professional authenticity and removing the need for facades.

Psychological safety benefits a culture of embracing failure, encouraging experimentation without fear of reprisal. Transparent communication is the bedrock, ensuring that information flows freely and openly.

Members hold psychological ownership over their roles, responsibilities, and commitments, bolstering accountability. This also fosters a culture of individual initiative and proactivity. Each member actively seeks out opportunities for improvement or innovation. There is a sense of shared responsibility, with no one person consistently leaning back, and no one feeling pressured into always taking the lead. Instead, every team member is empowered to initiate action and readily assists others when needed. This collaborative spirit and willingness to step up contribute to a dynamic and high-performing Agile Team.

Explore each principle & value with us

In the forthcoming weeks, we will explore one principle or value every Tuesday:

Introduction to the Agile Manifesto & Part 1 – The Agile Team: Skills & Culture

Principle 1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable solutions*.

Principle 2: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.

Principle 3: Deliver working solution* frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. (soon)

Principle 4: Business people and team* must work together daily throughout the project.

Principle 5: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. (soon)

Principle 6: The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within an agile team is real-time conversation. (soon)

Principle 7: Working solution* is the primary measure of progress. (soon)

Principle 8: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, team*, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. (soon)

Principle 9: Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. (soon)

Principle 10: Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential. (soon)

Principle 11: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. (soon)

Principle 12: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. (soon)

Value 1: We value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. (soon)

Value 2: We value working solution* over comprehensive documentation. (soon)

Value 3: We value customer collaboration over contract negotiation. (soon)

Value 4: We value responding to change over following a plan. (soon)

*LEGEND:

Business Value: Business Value encompasses any deliverable, feature, or enhancement that directly contributes to customer satisfaction, employee well-being, or overall organizational success. It can encompass not only customer-facing elements but also internal enablers that improve efficiency and effectiveness within the organization.

Developers: has been exchanged by team to recognize that Agile Teams can encompass a diverse range of roles and functions beyond just software development

Iteration: An Iteration refers to a distinct phase or cycle within a development process, where a set of tasks or activities are completed in a defined timeframe. In Scrum methodology, an Iteration is known as a Sprint, typically lasting 2-4 weeks, during which a set of prioritized work items are completed.

Lead Time: Lead Time refers to the duration it takes for a task or project to move from the initial request or conception stage to its completion, including all necessary processes and steps.

MVP (Minimum Viable Product): The MVP is a basic, functional version of a product or service that includes essential features, allowing it to be deployed or released to gather early feedback from users or customers.

Software: has been replaced by solutions to account for the fact that Agility does not only apply to software development, but to any kind of value that a business offers to the customer.

Written by Julia Heuritsch, SAFe Practice Consultant & Agile Coach