Agile is a key buzz word in the world at this time. We see it in advertisements, corporate value statements, and even on email signatures. But what is really happening with Agile? Are we focusing on the critical elements of Agile? Or have reduced Agile to a set of certifications and key phrases?

Through working with many teams and organizations, I have seen a wide range of understandings, implementations, and connections with Agile. There seems to be a lack of coherent understanding in where Agile came from and how frameworks such as Scrum or Extreme Programming create an interconnected and effective learning system.

Let’s start with the Agile Manifesto

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development came about in 2001 by a group of seventeen individuals trying to come to an agreement on their understanding and innovation of these “light frameworks”. Through this gathering, they had unity of thought on four values and twelve principles. This was the collective birth of Agile.

The first part read like this:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 
Working software over comprehensive documentation 
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

The manifesto is focused on Being Agile through behaviours, patterns of thought, and principles. The being of Agile is often forgotten or placed aside because getting things done is more critical. This unbalanced approach to Agile often shows signs of a man without his soul. It becomes mechanical, and just another project management methodology. This is sad.

Now what about Agile frameworks such as Scrum and Extreme Programming?

Each of the Agile frameworks helps us to put the Agile Manifesto into practice through the use of ceremonies, roles, cadences, responsibilities, and patterns.

Let’s examine Scrum for a moment

The official Scrum Guide states:

Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

Scrum is a framework – a framework for learning. It includes 3 roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, Team Members), 4 ceremonies (Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective), and 3 artifacts (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment). And each of these elements (plus others that many advanced teams use) all help to take Agile from being a way of thinking to Doing Agile in a way that is based on transparency, inspection, and adaption.

Agile teams that are advanced in systematic learning (commonly referred to as mature) continuously try new opportunities for learning, adjust and use a combination of being AND doing Agile. They try experiments, reflect on them, and connect them back to the core values and principles. Then they start another holistic learning loop again.

So let’s hear about your experiences.

This may be through supporting or working on an Agile team and how this team was able to include both the being of Agile and the doing of Agile.

Thanks and enjoy your journey with Agile values and Agile frameworks!
Paul J. Heidema

Categories: agile

Paul J. Heidema

CEO at SparkActa Inc. -- Paul J. Heidema consults, coaches and guides senior management and staff to look for possibilities to improve their results and improve their organization. He leads large-scale organizational transformations to achieve lasting results in: building a culture that supports trust and growth, leadership coaching to mentor others, organizational effectiveness in processes, and systems thinking.


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