leanpizza.net - tasty Agile… one slice at a time – by Olivier Lafontan

Coaching,Large Organisations,Values

March 14, 2012

Agile is about Values, values are about behaviours

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I keep coming back to the book “Winning” by Jack Welch. It is a great source of inspiration for me, for company wide transitions as well as for smaller team engagements.

I have again recently heard another Agile coach repeating that to become Agile you need to get the values first, that it is not a question of how well you go through the motion of an Agile team, you won’t get there if you don’t get the values…

I partially agree, but I also have an issue with this: I have no idea how to measure a company’s or group’s adherence to some values, any values, not just Agile ones.

In his book, Jack Welch says: “[…]The mission announces exactly where you are going, and the values describe the behaviors that will get you there. Speaking of that, I prefer abandoning the term values altogether in favor of just behaviors […].”

And that is exactly how I feel about Agile values: I prefer focusing on the correct implementation of the behaviors without worrying too much about getting everyone to adhere to some “values”. When a new practice is being trialled and implemented by a team, the practice itself can be hard to grasp, and how well the team tackles the challenge is a sign of their existing set of values. When the same team reproduces or exhibits the same behaviour, again and again (by the way, that behaviour will be wanted or not…), it is a sign that their culture is pretty well anchored, and if not at the level of the company, at least at the level of that team.

When wanting to change, there is certainly a question of behaviour that needs to be asked: the first one is “what kind of values would our current behaviours suggest?”.

And the second one is “what type of behaviours would we, as a group or as a company, want to be valued for?”. So really, to move to Agile, you don’t need to get the Values, what you need is to understand what behaviours are required to answer your issue (or as many consultants like to say “your challenge”…).

And guess what, sometimes the behaviours that might be needed could belong to the ones that Agile advocates: you don’t need to get the Values to succeed with Agile, but you need to be really focused on the – new – behaviours that are needed.

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