Agile Ethics and Values

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Communication: People on the team must talk to each other. This gets harder to do the more geographically separated the team is, but with tools like Skype, teams can talk to one another easily and cheaply. The point is that team members must not rely on email and documentation alone. Verbal communication is required to clarify ideas, solve complex problems, answer questions quickly, and help team members coordinate work efforts.

Simplicity: Beck says the XP coach should ask the team, "What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?" Then they should do that thing. Because agile approaches develop code in increments each iteration, the thought is that it is better to develop something simple that may have to be expanded later if needed, rather than spend a large amount of time now developing a solution that's more complicated and may, in fact, not be necessary.

Feedback: As stated earlier, our number one obligation is to provide value to the customer. In order to do that, we must obtain frequent feedback from the customer or customer representative in order to make sure that the product we are building is meeting their expectations. And if it is not, we have the information we need now in order to make corrections. Beck extends this meaning of feedback to include feedback from the system itself in the form of unit, functional, and performance tests run frequently in each iteration.

Courage: In order to accept the authority and accountability for the delivery of the product, the team members all need courage. From the courage to make decisions to the courage to say no, this is a foundational value that gives rise to all the others.

Respect: Each team member must begin by agreeing that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Many teams clarify this with working agreements that outline ways in which they choose to work together. And, as a result of working together to adhere to all the other values outlined here, team members grow to respect one another beyond their shared humanity to the ways each valued colleague contributes to the whole.

Adhering to a set of values that drive positive, collaborative behaviors and result in frequent software delivery helps us to work in an ethical manner. This is what agile is all about! Yes, agile also allows companies to decrease their time to market, increase quality, and eliminate waste in the process to provide a greater ROI to the organization. And you'll find plenty of articles about these benefits as well. But the realization of these benefits is not based just on the adoption of a set of practices; the value system must also be adopted if the approach is to work properly. So, as you consider adopting agile, also think about whether or not your organization's values match those of agile—and what you may want to do if they don't.

About the author

Michele Sliger's picture Michele Sliger

Michele Sliger has extensive experience in agile software development, having worked in both XP and Scrum teams before becoming a consultant. As a self-described "bridge builder," her passion lies in helping those in traditional software development environments cross the bridge to agility. Along with co-author Stacia Broderick, their book The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility focuses on the topic, helping PMI-trained project managers make the transition. Michele is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). If you have a question, or would like help with your agile adoption, Michele can be reached at michele@sligerconsulting.com.

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