Uncovering better ways…

I can tell you everything you need to know about agile in three words.

The first sentence of the Agile Manifesto says it all. It says, “We are uncovering better ways…”. Those are the three most important words in the whole manifesto, or anything written about agile since. They tell us the essence of what it means to be agile.

Just three words:

  • Uncovering – means finding out as we go, not thinking we can know it all upfront.
  • Better – let’s us know we are always looking for improvements.
  • Ways – tells us it’s a practice, it needs to be worked at repeatedly to make it successful.

Uncovering better ways… of doing anything… but especially…

Uncovering better ways to lead…

…is still emerging, and there’s lots to learn, but it probably means considering things like:

  • Embracing change and uncertainty, not portraying false certainty.
  • Involving people in creating vision and direction, not telling people what to do.
  • Cultivating emotional intelligence, self-awareness and vulnerability, not ignoring the soft skills.
  • Being a trusted thought-partner, not a teller of single truths.
  • Practicing nonviolent communication, not giving orders.
  • Bringing positive energy, not problems from above.
  • Removing obstacles, not ignoring them.
  • Creating the conditions for good work to happen, not focusing on process.
  • Empowering and trusting other’s expertise, not thinking you know best.
  • Using radical candor, not leaving issues unresolved.
  • Encouraging intelligent failure, not blaming people for making mistakes.
  • Coaching, supporting and challenging people, not leaving them to figure things out for themselves.
  • Role modelling desired behaviour, not expecting others to be the ones to change.

Uncovering better ways to be a team…

…is best done by the people in the team and could include things like:

  • Working together as one team, not working in silos and handing over work from one team to another.
  • Having shared goals, not individual performance objectives and rewards.
  • Knowing the user and their needs, not doing what stakeholders say.
  • Reducing cognitive load, not being overwhelmed.
  • Developing relationships, not letting things get in between us.
  • Respecting different opinions, not following the loudest voice.
  • Embracing diversity, not hiring for fit.
  • Fostering psychological safety, not exerting power over others.
  • Protecting wellbeing, not promoting heroics of putting the work first.

Uncovering better ways to organise work…

…has lots of potential and might include things like:

  • Optimising for the flow of value, not for just getting work done.
  • Limiting work in progress, not slowly working on many different things.
  • Visualising work, not hiding it.
  • Creating fast feedback loops, not planning everything upfront.
  • Aiming for excellence, not letting quality slip.
  • Pulling work to ourselves, not pushing it to others.
  • Learning, not assuming we know all we need to.

All ways are continuous, things can always be better, and the uncovering is never finished.