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  • Russell Hill

Part 4 (final part) - The Untapped Potential of the Agile Manifesto

In the previous blogs (part 1, part 2 and part 3) I provided an explanation of the "Twelve Principles of Agile Software" as listed on the agilemanifesto.org website. Here I will explain why I see these principles as the untapped potential of the Agile Manifesto.


I once coached a team who had requested my support after they we struggling to address some delivery issues they were experiencing. It soon became clear how unmotivated and disengaged the people were to anything Scrum related. I had made several suggestions and tried to engage them with new ideas, but nothing seemed to spark their interest. In their eyes they had "tried Scrum already" about 1.5 years previously, and I was regularly hearing "it does not work here".


It was clear they were "doing" Scrum, in that they followed a Scrum like process, but they were not appreciative of the values and culture changes required to become a more effective team. They had changed their processes, but not their behaviour. When I asked them why they did the things they did when following Scrum, it was clear they didn't really understand the underlying purpose of the Scrum ceremonies, roles, and artefacts.


As a coach I knew that if I simply said, "Well, you have been doing Scrum wrong, here is how you should be doing it..." I would have met even more resistance. I needed to find a way to help them understand how misaligned their culture and values were with Agile culture and values.


So I deliberately moved back to first principles of agility and away from the mechanics of Scrum. In doing this I asked the team to take the 12 principles from the Agile Manifesto, and together; read, understand and then identify which principles they felt they observed well, and which they felt could be improved. What surprised me was they had never heard of, or even seen, these 12 principles before. They were familiar with the 4 value statements of the Agile Manifesto, but not these principles. As they worked through them, discussed and understood them, a gradual realisation emerged as to why they had been been doing the things they had. The whole exercise gave a deeper understanding of what they should strive to achieve and why - the 12 principles provided a steering wheel to plot a more meaningful course.


Every since that coaching experience I have found around 90% of teams I coach are not familiar with these 12 principles, even teams who consider themselves to be "super agile" and with several years of experience. Taking them through a facilitated discussion about the 12 principles helps even the most experienced teams take a step back and reflect on the meaning of why they do what they do.


Its easy to get caught up in the day to day activities and to loose track of the greater meaning or purpose of what we are trying to become, especially in a team context. That's why I see the "Twelve Principles of Agile Software" as an untapped potential, "hidden" in plain site within the Agile Manifesto.


Hopefully you found this rather long set of posts helpful or insightful. Do you also make use of the 12 principles with your teams? If so, what is your experience?

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