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Everybody knows agile, right?

“We do Agile daily”

In the last years agile approach to software is becoming more and more popular. Especially as a buzzword. Everybody “want’s to be agile” and the great majority already “is agile”. When you ask somebody (working in software development) about his knowledge regarding agile philosophy or scrum framework you’ll usually get an answer which will let you put this person in one of three categories:

  • someone who knows what Agile and Scrum are (better or worse)
  • someone who does not know (does this still happen?)
  • someone who thinks that he/she knows

The third group is pretty large. Sadly it is usually the “hardest” one – people that heard about some practices, but that’s it – they are sure they don’t need to know more. Unfortunately the practices itself are not enough – coping only the practices quickly leads to cargo cult. What’s the cure for this?


We need the whole pyramid if we want to succeed

As Maslov’s created the pyramid of needs, we can also create the Agile pyramid, which would look like this:



We need to start from the bottom before we reach the top. If we do it the other way around it won’t work.


The reason to change

Before we decide to do the “big agile transformation” we have to have a reason for it. “Agile” itself is not a reason. “Because everybody does it” is not the best reason.

But better effectiveness leading to to bigger income and employee satisfaction could be a great reason. Remember your reason – it is the thing that starts everything.

Also keep in mind that sometimes there could be  no reason – the status quo is good – in that case don’t try to force yourself into looking for one. Perhaps you operate in simple or in a little compicated environment (as understood by the cynefin model) and you do perfectly fine – maybe there is no need to change.

There is also a nice quote regarding the “reason to change” (thanks for suggesting Kasia Z. ;):

“You change for two reasons: Either you learn enough that you want to, or you’ve been hurt enough that you have to.”



Values are the “high level” ideas. Agile manifesto presented the core values for agile software development. Lean has some important values (although it focuses on principles). Scrum and XP present their values too. Nevertheless all these values have a lot in common and don’t conflict with each other.

Values are pretty general, like “trust”, “honesty”, “respect”. But they are the foundation for all future actions and you must really believe in them if you want them “to work”. When you find yourself in a position where you are not sure what to do (which happens pretty often for me) remember about the values in the first place. As Roy E. Disney said:

“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”.


The principles are the basic rules. They are sort of a bridge between values and practices – principles don’t specify how to do the work, but they set the boundaries. Scrum distinguishes a couple of core principles like “value based prioritization” or “empirical process control”.

In my personal opinion, you have to obey the principles in order to improve the practices. Let’s take the “timeboxing” principle. Sometimes, in the beginning people hate timeboxing. We have a meeting (like a sprint review),  “we are not done yet”, and the time has passed. Should we add more time? No. Treat this as a lesson and improve next time. This will make the practices more effective (in the future).

Remember what Alan Casden said:

“Never compromise your principles, even if it leads to difficulties in the short term.”



There in not much to add regarding the practices itself – they are the most known and most visible part, right? 😉  Nevertheless I would like to emphasise their relation to the rest of the pyramid: when you have all the lower floors, then and only then, you can focus on practices – this approach will lead to learning. Implementing practices without appropriate ground just won’t work – this will lead to cargo cult.

At the end I’ll leave you with an inspirational quote by Albert Einstein:

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”


Published inAgileNo categoryScrum

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