The progress in software development in the ever-changing market, with an increasingly shorter time to market; in addition to the the experience (and the bad as well) and the loss of values, caused a few years ago the emergence of Agile Methodologies. Through the Manifesto, the authors wanted to show the path they considered this profession had to go.
This Manifesto is based on four main pillars and twelve principles:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. through this work we have come to value:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
In this article, we do not want to put the focus on concepts that can be longer known, like the delivery of working software in short iteration cycles, or the flexibility to change, but we are going to focus on a broader concept, that is not only relevant to software development, but it affects and is present in any job or profession such as the People. Moreover, attending the “new” approach or their regained importance in this methodology.
As the Manifesto states on its first proposal:
“Individuals and iterations over processes and tools”
The importance of the individuals (People) and interactions (the relationships between these people) becomes the next priority over the processes and tools that may be used.
How has this come about, where we need to step forward as individuals over the processes and tools we use? What is this due to? We will review history to find the causes.
Frederick W. Taylor in the early 1900s, was the promoter of the scientific organization of work.
His widely applied Taylorism, is based on the study and application of scientific methods in industrial production tasks. This concept seeks to maximize efficiency and performance aided by a system of bonus payments. Besides all improvisation and creativity is suppressed and the job becomes routine (to follow a set of instructions guided by a single path that leads to only one conclusions). Throughout the twentieth century, most of the work was algorithmic (not just tightening screws, but also in accounting, law, etc.), and the workforce got replaced by computer programs and machines that did the job, being outsourced to other countries or areas of the world with lower costs.
More recently there has been what the authors Philip Brown, Hugh Lauder and David Ashton have called the Digital Taylorism, in their book The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs, and Incomes, where it is noted that knowledge work from the working class known as middle class is also being automated and / or exported as has been done with manual labor.
Having seen the global trends being applied in recent times that will continue to apply, the proposal of Agile is contrary to all. Prioritize the individual and their interactions, return to logic and common sense seeking the medium and long term and not just the short term, where the benefits of the process will be greater, such as:
- The individual is the focus of the process to get the best of him. He will be aided by increasingly better tools and he will use them to do his work better, not vice versa.
- Maximize relationships and communication, making it face-to-face to talk about what you want to achieve, and how to do so very quickly and detect problems and solutions to reach the desired goal.
- Taking very agile and quick decisions, being open to change.
- And this leads to the creation of more profitable and better quality products, avoiding the recurrence of errors produced by the presence of blockers or distorters during communication because everyone is together face-to-face.
Once having analyzed the pillar about the People, we will see how through the principles, the focus on the People becomes more specific. In the following two principles:
“Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”
“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
The key points mentioned earlier are emphasized, that the team needed to carry out a project includes business managers and developers, and ultimately anyone who has something to do with the project. Of course, with different dedications, but with the maxim that it is the standard, not the uncommon.
So far, there has been nothing that is groundbreaking or complex, back to basics, what stops us doing so?
“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”
This principle introduces important values: motivation, empowerment, responsibility, trust, autonomy and outstanding performance. It is no small deed, let us see how you can achieve all this.
Motivation is essential for people to give the best at work or on a project and need to be watered and catered for like a plant so it does not die. For me it is the most special value which we will discuss and the one that is affected by all the others negatively if not present. Since it is a lengthy subject in future deliveries we will try to make a case study, but to give some hints about the countless studies, books and resources, we show some of the leaders and pioneers in the topic; Harry F. Harlow with the studies he conducted on the behavior of primates and Edward L. Deci on his work on motivation.
What motivates us? Why do people change to less paid jobs? No one conducts Wikipedians; nobody stops to think how to motivate them, why do they behave like that?
- Trust: If not present, is it a relationship intended to maximize profit? If you do not trust a person the following values are hardly going to be adding value, so it will be a relationship doomed for failure.
- Autonomy: We people need to be autonomous in our work (what we do), our time (when we do it), our team (who we do it with), our skills (how we do it). This point is arguable, as it may fall into the easy reading of anarchy, and it is the total opposite, individuals have to be guided with limits or norms; standardize methodologies obtaining the best practices and grant freedom to carry out the work. It is true that the part of choosing the team today is an unusual practice, but it is growing. At the end you have to get people to perform work at ease, so they can do their best.
- Responsibility: Very similar to trust, as the work and not the responsibility is delegated. Would you allow a worker to decide for example on the selection and the joining of new members? Different levels of delegation.
- Empowerment: Who has the authority? Who is responsible? Practice good leadership to deliver to people (team) everything they need so that they can solve the problems aided by the rest of the values here stated.
- Outstanding performance: As a result of the above values we will obtain outstanding performance in the development of our work and that will lead us to the need to improve and polish what we do.
And without being explicitly stated:
- Purpose: It has to be shared to be motivated to have it, if it is imposed it will need some kind of incentive and surely it will cease to be had without it.
- Appreciation: Either individually, collectively, as a simple thank you, or through social networks, with the option of material gain. Who would not like to be told when he performs well?
“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”
This principle is basically similar to autonomy, but for a group. Given a goal that has to be shared by the team, and simple and clear rules, freedom should be given to focus on achieving the purpose in the best way considered appropriate, delegating and trusting that it will be done the best way.
The multidisciplinary concept is associated with this way of working, as a group should be autonomous to reach the goal, and therefore should be able to handle any challenge that comes along. Individuals should have “expertise in all” with varying degrees of expertise. Once concept in growing usage is the cell, that is able to live independently but has interactions with the outside at times.
The self-organized management of teams should be similar to that of a ‘gardener’, grow alone, but we want it to grow in the most appropriate manner.
“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly”
When was the last time you did a break in your work to think if you were doing the right thing? In Agile it is like the air we breathe, essential. Continuous improvement is proposing constantly if things are done well or else improving them. The curious thing is that in the end, the vast majority of improvements will affect people making them grow and yet the whole process and work being carried out.
And for now just what the Agile Manifesto has to say on people. As it has been seen only an explanation of what is you want to achieve and not how, which we will leave for the next articles where we will show several solutions that may arise.
As a final thought, without knowing applicable solution, how hard is it to get one of the goals here, knowing that it will apply exponentially into the product, project or task? The answer is that yes, it is, which is complex and difficult, but worthwhile.
Dani Marquez – Project manager in RC Associats