Agile & Digital

Agile principles over tools

Agile working is based around some key principles. It is obsessed with customers, it’s adaptable and experimental, emphasising rapid testing and learning. It focuses on keeping work transparent and delivering through small autonomous teams. It embeds the idea of eliminating waste and bureaucracy wherever possible

Agile has also introduced a new language and set of tools, including daily stand-up meetings, scrum, Kanban, minimal viable product, customer journey mapping, sprints and collocated teams.

Many of these are great tools if used correctly, but even the founders of the agile method were clear that agile is about principles and people over tools and process.

Unfortunately, several organisations have tried to introduce agile by focusing on the tools first. They encourage people to adopt daily stand-up meetings, use Kanban boards or a specific agile methodology irrespective of whether this approach really makes the work of the team more agile.

In some cases, for example having daily stand up meetings, these have added inflexibility and cost for teams where these add little value. In others, for example moving all team members to one location, this has led to teams being further away from their customers and less representative of the diversity of their customer base.

If something adds cost, makes us less flexible and insulates us from our customers, this is the very opposite of agile.

So whenever you are implementing an agile approach, always go back to the principles and, starting from there, only then select the tools that actually enable you to become more agile in your reality.

If you’ve already implemented some of these tools, it’s worth having a review. Have they really made you more agile? If not, go back to the principles and then see if you can identify other tools or approaches that may help you implement these principles for your particular team and pattern of work.

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