Apply Agile values correctly

The agile manifesto for software development lists values and principles. But of course not all values listed there are equally important. The less important ones must also be accepted and embraced. Instead of black and white, the world of values is full of shades of gray, just like in the working world. On, Stephanie Ockerman expresses her thoughts around agile values and how they are implemented and applied in practice. She likes to think that agile values help her navigate through the different shades of gray. In doing so, her job is to help agile teams embrace the agile mindset. Ockerman takes four approaches that she draws upon. Below, we summarize her article for you.
Two hands are typing on a keyboard, in the foreground is a post-it with the words "Agile" and two gears.

People and how they work together take precedence over processes and tools

Processes and tools are a fine thing. Essential, even, but just not perfect. They are not sufficient for very complex scenarios and contexts. That's why Stephanie Ockerman believes that they must be applied flexibly so that they don't end up being a hindrance. She gives examples to show how values can be applied in practice. Example: 
A company wants all employees to use a ticket system so the infrastructure team can better manage its workload. In the ticket, all fields should be filled in. In addition, the Scrum team should be able to request someone from the infrastructure team to support a complex, urgent implementation.
This shows that people always find the best way through communication and prioritizing. Never let processes undermine collective intelligence!

Software that works stands above comprehensive documentation

Software that works is the most important measure of progress. Documentation is certainly necessary in many areas and situations, but it is secondary. Not documenting, on the other hand, would be completely unprofessional; documenting to a meaningful extent would be ideal. As an example, Ockerman cites the following situation: a Scrum team should always produce a certain amount of documentation. In the course of a project, it turns out that certain documents could only be half completed and basically have no added value or are not needed for any real purpose. In this case, Stephanie Ockerman vehemently advocates that the Scrum team contact their supervisor to discuss suspending these documentations instead of simply filling them out just to put a check mark behind the task.

Collaboration with the customer takes precedence over contract negotiations

Contracts are important. No question about it. Contracts are meant to put the agreements between two parties in writing. But think about how strict your contract needs to be and how much detail it needs to go into. More trust and less detail, or would you rather have more regulation? Stephanie Ockerman, who lives and works in the agile environment, argues that collaboration with the customer should be seen as more important than a clause from a contract. In her opinion, this is the only way to create a product that actually meets the customer's wishes. She knows from experience that people often find it very difficult to describe something that does not yet exist or to formulate wishes. Therefore, instead of contracts, she always relies on meetings with the customer.
Her example:
During a sprint, the development team shows the product owner a feature. In the process, the product owner realizes that much of what was asked for at the beginning of the project no longer corresponds to what is needed, or perhaps even never did. This is exactly where the values of agile development come into play, because Scrum teams should ideally not be forced into contractual constraints. Of course, we now need to talk about how the extra effort is limited and ultimately compensated. Fortunately, in agile systems it is always possible to change the requirements during the entire development process. But in no case is a contractually agreed feature created at this point, of which everyone already knows that it is useless. With this in mind, Stephanie Ockerman argues for more open, flexible contracts, flexible schedules, and flexible budgets. Agile, in other words. This may bring tears to the eyes of the finance department, because a flexible budget is also a risk - but in an agile environment, flexibility is the best solution.

Responding to change is above the plan

The agile world of work is unpredictable and constantly changing. As a result, it is imperative that all who are in it respond to change. At the same time, plans are made. Constantly. And then those plans are changed again. Also constantly. Sounds paradoxical, but Stephanie Ockerman insists that it's important to make plans and keep adjusting them. That's what agile working means. Plans need to be designed so that adapting them is easily doable. You can actually find examples of this everywhere. Talk to someone who once worked on a Scrum team and ask him or her about making and adapting plans. Change is the constant companion of all agile workers. Always.


As a project manager or leader, you should always be able to balance values against each other. It is your job to react flexibly and make sensible goal-oriented decisions. Every now and then, one value has to take a back seat to another. This is only normal. Be aware of which value deserves priority in which situation.
Author: IAPM internal

Key words: Agile Project management, Agiles Manifesto, Values, Tip

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