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Applying Agile Management Value 1: Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools

The first core value of the Agile Manifesto is to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. When you allow each person to contribute unique value to your software development project, the result can be powerful.

If processes and tools are seen as the way to manage product development and everything associated with it, people and the way they approach the work must conform to the processes and tools. Conformity makes it hard to accommodate new ideas, new requirements, and new thinking. Agile approaches, however, value people over process. This emphasis on individuals and teams puts the focus on people and their energy, innovation, and ability to solve problems. You use processes and tools in agile project management, but they’re intentionally streamlined and directly support product creation. The more robust a process or tool, the more you spend on its care and feeding and the more you defer to it. With people front and center, however, the result is a leap in productivity. An agile environment is human-centric and participatory and can be readily adapted to new ideas and innovations.

If you value processes and tools, the benefits are that the processes are generally clear and well-understood, and you have a written record of communications about the project. However, if you value individuals and interactions highly, you realize greater benefits:

  • Communication is clear and effective.

  • Communication is quick and efficient.

  • Teamwork becomes strong as people work together.

  • Development teams can self-organize.

  • Development teams have more chances to innovate.

  • Development teams can customize processes as necessary.

  • Development team members can take personal ownership of the project.

  • Development team members can have deeper job satisfaction.

Of course, development team members must have the capacity to be involved, responsible, and innovative. Team members may need to let go of ego to work well within the team. But these disadvantages are minor compared with those that often attend processes that value process above people:

  • People may over-rely on processes instead of finding the best ways to create good products.

  • One process doesn’t fit all teams — different people have different work styles.

  • One process doesn’t fit all projects.

  • Communication can be ambiguous and time-consuming.

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