Agile Manifesto – Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

The first statement in the Agile Manifesto is “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools“.

Why is it more important to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools?

    • You can have the most wonderful process in the world, but if you don’t have the talent on your team; you are in big trouble. A rigorous process won’t save you if you don’t focus on individuals making high quality contributions.
    • Take interactions in the area of collaboration. Just because you have a daily scrum doesn’t mean you have high quality collaboration occurring. What if you have all the processes around communication in place, but the individuals on your team are constantly arguing with each other or worse undermining each other.
    • Agile processes require individuals to do the right thing and adapt to changing requirements and situations, versus just blindly follow some elaborate process. If you don’t invest in the individuals on your team, you may end up with a lot of disengaged team members and your burndown begins to flat line.

What I have seen in the past few years is an increasing focus on agile frameworks that have many processes, artifacts for everything, and one tool after another added to the stack. Let’s be honest a lot of the agile frameworks I see being used reflect a prescriptive a process as if they were lifted right from the Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK). In many organizations the amount of latitude given to the team is almost zero, and there is no such thing as a self managed team. I see adherence to process dominating what some people call agile frameworks; the hell with the results, instead it’s all about how many of the best practices you check off during a project review. Surely if you are following the best practices and using the most comprehensive tools you must be doing it right, well that’s the thinking behind it. Forget about the people, just follow the process and all will be well.

Listen, I’m not against using a good framework like Scrum or Kanban, or tools like Jira or Azure DevOps. In fact it is essential to have a framework that has some proven processes or ceremonies to utilize, but when you keep adding on additional processes and tools you begin to constrain the choices your team has at its disposal. You trade a self managed team , for adherence to a rigorous process. Ultimately you chip away at innovation, choice, and instead of focusing on the core work, you are focused on supporting some corporate metrics. Last but not least you begin to make all work equal as the administrative burden on the team increases and job satisfaction plummets.

The next installment of the Agile Manifesto will focus on “Working software over comprehensive documentation”. I would love to hear your comments, either supportive or not.


Author: josephsacco

Part-time philosopher and writer. I enjoy yoga, meditation, blogging, reading, and strength training. It is the goal of my writing to inspire people so that they can create a life filled with meaning and contribution.

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