Born with the intent to simplify the jobs, and lives, of developers, the Agile manifesto rests on four fundamental values that can be applied well beyond the realm of Information Technology and software development. According to our Agile Coach, Giovanni Martone, “the Agile values describe a mindset, a way of thinking before a work method”. They are:
• Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
• Working software over comprehensive documentation
• Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
• Responding to change over following a plan
Let’s break them down:
The Agile method is people-centric.
The Agile manifesto innovates on the way people interact when working on a project or product. The core idea is that work must done in a team, and that face-to-face communication must always be privileged. In a nutshell, more people, less process. In the Agile philosophy, teams must be cross-functional, as horizontal as possible, accountable — each member being responsible for what the team ultimately delivers — self-organized, and dedicated to self-improvement.
The Agile method is iterative.
It revolves around the idea of splitting the development of a product or project — any project — into small tasks (iterations), in an always-evolving fashion. The aim is to review each iteration in retrospect to add value to the next one. For Giovanni, “adding value as the team is still hands-on, and therefore able to make adjustments swiftly, is easy. Getting to the end of a project or completing the development of a product and trying to make changes then… that is a whole different matter”.
The Agile method is customer-centric.
In Giovanni’s words, “constant customer or stakeholder engagement is the driver behind successfully applying it”. Each product or project iteration, and the value it brings, can and should be showcased to customers or stakeholders to prompt their immediate feedback.
The Agile method is adaptive.
As getting constant feedback from clients or stakeholders is built-in, not bolted on, it allows project or product managers to keep close track of customers’ requirements, which may vary over time or be misunderstood to begin with. After all, as Giovanni points out, “we are human”.
What has the Agile method ever done for us?
At iGenius, we’re in the process of applying the Agile workflow to product management.
As we scale up, the focus is on infusing an Agile culture across the board so as to build the right basis for a consistent work method overall.
And the pressure is on Giovanni to share the Agile values and coach the teams internally.
“Applying the Agile workflow to every aspect of our product development at iGenius was a great benchmark for me,” he says.
“The key to making it all work was communication, so that’s where we started. A steady flow of communication is paramount when different teams work on the same project. To that end, we created simple templates that we keep referring to in order to track and share progress.”
“The challenge is applying the same philosophy across teams that seemingly have no occasion of working together. The risk is that different teams with different responsibilities and skillsets might get siloed and isolated. It’s about finding points of contact, areas where the work of one team can benefit that of another, but also about thinking of iGenius as one team with one common goal. Even the most mundane job might have an impact on others, so sharing information and working together is paramount.”
“The keyword is empathy — it’s not just about communicating results, it’s about sharing a vision and goal, and finding areas where the work of one team feeds into that of another, in iterations.”
Say it with a sticky note
One of the principles of the Agile manifesto is that simplicity, otherwise defined as “the art of maximizing the amount of work not done”, is essential.
For it to be effective, communication should be simple and immediately clear. As simple as a white board with color-coded cards — read sticky notes — on it.
“The simplest way to communicate across teams would be using one board (one white wall) with as many cards (colorful sticky notes) on it as there are projects in progress. As projects go from one stage to another, the cards will move on the board, triggering intervention from other teams when necessary,” explains Giovanni.
One team, one goal, one board.
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