New to Lean or Agile

It can be hard to change a team’s mindset. People who are used to working in a functional team, with large quantities of documentation as the main communication point, sometimes struggle to adopt the collaborative culture required to support iterative methodologies like Scrum, XP or Kanban. Blend BDD with other methodologies and practices, provide simple conversational templates to get people talking, play on the typical strengths of analysts, testers and developers, and help your team explore the behaviour of the system and the value it provides. Now with Deliberate Discovery to help teams have courage, share their learning and actively seek feedback!

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Agile Values

Methodologies like Scrum, XP or Kanban have various strengths and weaknesses.

Scrum’s scope involves managing projects and analysis, and it does not include the technical practices necessary for consistent planning using sprints. XP’s technical practices are rigorous, and can be difficult to adopt and requires a rigid adherence to the practices, at least in the early days while teams are understanding them. Kanban can build on existing strengths and adapting existing processes, and often works best with other, more disruptive processes to enable quick movements from broken practices to something new and different.

Regardless of which methodology we choose, each of them leverages a set of underlying personal values which must be present in order for them to succeed. These values, vaguely aligned with being a “good person”, can be defined, measured and used as a target in a way which is hard to game.

By adopting certain values alongside practices, and encouraging teams to do the same, we can provide a safe place for learning and innovation, while drawing the practices into a form which efficiently leverages the values. This makes Lean and Agile adoptions more likely to succeed, makes individuals feel less like they’re part of a meat-grinder change, and provides a solid foundation for teams to adapt their processes going forwards.

The values I like to use are:

respect – the belief that other people are valuable, able to teach you something and amaze you, able to succeed given experience and support, interested in others’ well-being and success, and motivated by the desire to make the world a better place; and that any behaviour to the contrary is caused by external pressures or ordinary, forgivable human frailty

courage – willingness to try new things which might not work, to accept personal risk for professional gain, to make oneself vulnerable in order to learn, and to lead others to do the same

communication – the art of making oneself clearly understood, understanding others and feeding back any lack of understanding so that it can be corrected, listening and imagining, being aware of the impact of communications (verbal and otherwise), and finding other ways to communicate when required

simplicity – the ability and desire to reduce complexity, mitigate or isolate it where it’s inevitable, and avoid introducing it; to start, where it’s possible to start, without worrying about how or where it will end

feedback – knowing that our perception of our world and the ways in which we model it may be inaccurate, actively seeking out those inaccuracies (which may require courage!), trusting any existing mechanisms which can inform us of those inaccuracies, and listening to them when they do.

The values are from Kent Beck’s XP methodology; definitions are my own.

Read my blog post on Cargo Cults and Agile Values, or contact me, if you’d like to know more.