Published On: 16 February 2022By Categories: Tags: 13.2 min read

The 12 principles of Agile

In the previous article, we have introduced the concept of Agile – Why it was introduced and how it can benefit organizations or teams. In general, Agile can be explained as a mindset or a set of values and principles to help organizations or teams create better products/services or to manage a project. The four fundamental values from the Agile Manifesto are very concise and were designed to ensure teams prioritize the right things. These four principles are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  2. Responding to change over following a plan
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Working software over comprehensive documentation

The 12 principles of Agile were added after the creation of the manifesto in order to guide teams transition into the agile mindset and assess whether the practices that they are following are in line with the agile culture. The 12 principles of Agile also offer more concrete examples of how the agile way of working should take place.

Below are the summarized version of the 12 Agile principles:

  • 1

    Customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of valuable software or products

  • 2

    Embrace change

  • 3

    Deliver value frequently

  • 4

    Work together and break silos of your project

  • 5

    Build projects around motivated individuals

  • 6

    Face-to-face interactions

  • 7

    Working software or products in the primary measure of progress

  • 8

    Promote a constant and sustainable way of working

  • 9

    Continuous attention to technical excellence

  • 10

    Simplicity in essential

  • 11

    Self-organizing teams make the best decisions

  • 12

    Regularly reflect on how to become more effective

Each of these 12 Agile Principles is worked out in more detail below.

1. Customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of valuable software (product)

The first principle of the Agile Manifesto states that the highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software (or products). This principle emphasizes the importance of delivering a product that meets the customer’s needs and expectations. Agile teams achieve this by delivering working software in short iterations, allowing the customer to provide feedback and adjust requirements as necessary. The focus is on delivering value early and frequently to ensure that the product is meeting the customer’s needs throughout the development process.

This principle is critical in ensuring that the end product is not only useful but also meets the customer’s expectations, resulting in a successful outcome for both the customer and the development team.

2. Embrace change

In the Agile approach, teams should always embrace change in managing a project for several reasons:

  1. Customer Satisfaction: Agile methodologies prioritize delivering value to customers early and continuously. By embracing change, teams can quickly adapt to evolving customer needs and preferences. They can incorporate feedback, learn from it, and make necessary adjustments to ensure the final product meets or exceeds customer expectations.
  2. Adaptability: In today’s fast-paced and dynamic business environment, change is inevitable. Embracing change allows teams to be flexible and responsive to external factors such as market shifts, emerging technologies, or regulatory requirements. They can adjust project plans, goals, and priorities based on new information, enabling them to stay ahead of the competition and deliver relevant solutions.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Agile methodologies emphasize the importance of inspecting and adapting throughout the project lifecycle. By embracing change, teams actively seek feedback and learn from their experiences. They can identify areas for improvement, experiment with different approaches, and make incremental enhancements to their processes, products, and team dynamics.
  4. Risk Mitigation: Change often brings uncertainty and risk. However, by embracing change in an Agile environment, teams can mitigate risks more effectively. They engage in iterative and incremental development, allowing for early detection of potential issues or challenges. Regular feedback loops and frequent reassessment of priorities enable teams to address risks proactively and make course corrections as needed.
  5. Collaboration and Empowerment: Agile methodologies emphasize self-organizing teams and shared responsibility. Embracing change encourages open communication, collaboration, and engagement among team members. It creates an environment where everyone’s ideas and perspectives are valued, leading to increased creativity, innovation, and ownership of the project’s success.
  6. Continuous Delivery: Agile promotes frequent and incremental delivery of working software or tangible outcomes. Embracing change enables teams to respond to evolving requirements, prioritize features or deliverables based on value, and deliver increments of the product more frequently. This iterative approach allows for early validation, market testing, and feedback incorporation, leading to better overall outcomes.
  7. Stakeholder Engagement: Embracing change helps foster stronger relationships with project stakeholders. By involving stakeholders in the change management process, teams demonstrate transparency, collaboration, and responsiveness. Stakeholders feel heard and valued, which enhances their engagement and increases the likelihood of project success.

Embracing change is a fundamental principle in Agile project management.

3. Deliver value frequently

The “deliver value frequently” principle in Agile emphasizes the importance of providing tangible, working deliverables to customers or stakeholders on a regular basis throughout the project’s lifecycle. Instead of waiting until the end of the project to deliver a fully completed product, Agile methodologies encourage iterative and incremental delivery of value.

Agile projects are divided into small iterations or timeboxed iterations called sprints. Each iteration typically lasts from one to four weeks. Within each iteration, the team focuses on delivering a small, well-defined set of features, enhancements, or functionality that can be demonstrated and evaluated by stakeholders.

By delivering value frequently, Agile teams can gather feedback from customers and stakeholders at regular intervals. This feedback informs the team about the product’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. The team can then adapt their plans, refine requirements, and adjust priorities based on the feedback received. This iterative feedback loop helps ensure the delivered product aligns with customer needs and expectations.

4. Work together and break silos of your project

Agile methodologies encourage working together and breaking silos in a project for several reasons. Firstly, Agile recognizes that projects are most successful when individuals from different disciplines collaborate effectively. By bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise, teams can leverage their collective knowledge and skills to tackle complex challenges. Breaking down silos fosters cross-functional collaboration, enabling team members to understand each other’s roles, communicate more effectively, and work towards shared project goals. This collaborative approach leads to better decision-making, faster problem-solving, and higher-quality outcomes.

Secondly, Agile methodologies emphasize the value of continuous feedback and learning. Working together and breaking silos enables frequent and open communication between stakeholders, business people, and developers. By actively engaging with one another, teams can gain a deeper understanding of project requirements, customer needs, and market dynamics. This shared understanding facilitates the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, refine project objectives, and deliver solutions that align closely with business goals. Collaboration and breaking silos also foster a culture of trust, transparency, and shared ownership, promoting greater engagement and commitment from all project participants.

5. Build projects around motivated individuals

Supporting self-organizing teams is important because it empowers individuals to take ownership, make decisions, and collaborate effectively. Self-organizing teams are composed of individuals who have the autonomy to plan and execute their work, distribute tasks among themselves, and determine the best approach to achieve project goals. By allowing team members to self-manage, organizations tap into their collective expertise, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. This not only fosters a sense of ownership and accountability but also promotes a collaborative and innovative culture where individuals are motivated to excel, adapt to change, and continuously improve the team’s performance.

6. Face-to-face interactions

The most effective method to convey the right information is through having face-to-face conversations or discussions. It reduces the time between asking a question via email/chat and prevents any miscommunications. Agile recommends face-to-face interaction for several reasons:

  • Richer Communication: Face-to-face interaction allows for richer communication compared to remote or written communication. It enables the use of non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, which convey additional meaning and nuance. This enhances understanding, reduces misinterpretation, and promotes effective communication among team members.
  • Immediate Clarification: Face-to-face interaction allows for immediate clarification of questions, doubts, or ambiguities. Team members can ask for clarifications in real-time, seek immediate feedback, and address any misunderstandings promptly. This immediate clarification helps avoid delays, minimize rework, and keep the project on track.
  • Building Relationships and Trust: Face-to-face interaction facilitates the building of relationships and trust among team members. Direct personal interaction fosters a sense of connection, empathy, and camaraderie. It helps build rapport, strengthen bonds, and cultivate a positive team culture. Trust is vital for effective collaboration, open communication, and successful project outcomes.

While remote collaboration and digital communication tools have their place, Agile recognizes the value of face-to-face interaction in fostering effective communication, collaboration, and relationship-building. It helps teams work together more cohesively, reduces the risk of miscommunication, and enables faster decision-making and problem-solving.

7. Working software (product) is the primary measure of progress

It doesn’t matter how many hours you have put into a task, If the work you have done does not translate into a working product, then there’s no value generated for the end-user. Working solutions or software are considered the primary measure of progress in Agile for two key reasons.

Firstly, working solutions provide tangible evidence of progress that can be objectively evaluated. In Agile, the focus is on delivering valuable software increments frequently. By having working solutions at each iteration or sprint, teams can demonstrate the actual functionality and features that have been developed. This tangible output serves as a clear indicator of progress, enabling stakeholders to see and experience the value being delivered. It allows for more accurate assessment, feedback, and validation of the work completed, ensuring that the project is on track and meeting the desired objectives.

Secondly, working solutions enable faster learning and adaptation. Agile methodologies emphasize continuous improvement and the ability to respond to changing requirements. By delivering working software at regular intervals, teams can gather real-world feedback from users, stakeholders, or customers early on. This feedback provides valuable insights into the software’s usability, functionality, and alignment with the intended goals. It enables teams to make necessary adjustments, prioritize future work, and ensure that the software being developed meets the evolving needs of the end-users. The iterative nature of Agile allows for course corrections and iterative refinements based on the insights gained from each working solution, leading to a more successful final product.

8. Promote a constant and sustainable pace of working

Agile promotes a constant and sustainable pace of working to prioritize the long-term success and well-being of the team. By maintaining a steady rhythm of work, individuals can avoid burnout, maintain their productivity, and sustain their energy levels over time. Agile recognizes that sustained performance is more valuable than short bursts of intense activity, as it leads to better quality work and consistent progress. A constant and sustainable pace allows teams to maintain a predictable flow of delivery, ensure a healthy work-life balance, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. It also enables teams to respond more effectively to changes, mitigate risks, and deliver value consistently, leading to increased customer satisfaction and a higher likelihood of project success.

9. Continuous attention to technical excellence

Paying continuous attention to technical excellence is crucial in Agile because it lays the foundation for long-term success and sustainability. Technical excellence ensures that the software being developed is of high quality, maintainable, and adaptable to changing requirements. By focusing on technical excellence, teams can reduce technical debt, improve code quality, and enhance the overall robustness and reliability of the software. This, in turn, leads to faster delivery of new features, easier bug fixing, and greater agility in responding to customer needs. Continuous attention to technical excellence also fosters a culture of learning, innovation, and collaboration within the team, encouraging the adoption of best practices, code reviews, and knowledge sharing. Ultimately, it enables teams to deliver valuable, high-quality software that meets user expectations and provides a solid foundation for future development and enhancements.

10. Simplicity is essential

Simplicity enhances the efficiency of development and delivery processes. Agile methodologies prioritize delivering working software quickly and frequently. By keeping things simple, teams can avoid unnecessary complexities, reduce overhead, and focus on delivering the most valuable features and functionality. Simplicity enables teams to streamline their workflows, minimize waste, and optimize the use of resources, resulting in faster time-to-market and improved productivity.

Secondly, simplicity promotes clarity and understanding. Agile teams strive for effective communication and collaboration. Complex and convoluted solutions can hinder communication, increase the risk of misinterpretation, and lead to misunderstandings or errors. Simplicity in design, code, and documentation ensures that the project’s goals and requirements are easily comprehensible to all team members, stakeholders, and users. Clear and concise solutions foster shared understanding, alignment, and collaboration among team members, leading to more efficient development processes and higher-quality outcomes.

Furthermore, simplicity enhances maintainability and adaptability. In Agile, projects often involve iterative and incremental development, with a focus on embracing change. Simple solutions are typically easier to maintain, modify, and refactor. They are more resilient to changes in requirements, business priorities, or technological advancements. Simplicity reduces the risk of creating complex dependencies and tightly coupled systems, making it easier to make modifications, add new features, or address evolving user needs. This adaptability allows Agile teams to respond swiftly to feedback, incorporate changes effectively, and continuously deliver value to customers.

11.Self-organizing teams make the best decisions

Self-organizing teams make the best decisions because they possess a deep understanding of the work at hand, have diverse perspectives, and are empowered to take ownership of their decisions. The key reasons why self-organizing teams excel in decision-making are as follows:

  • Contextual Knowledge: Self-organizing teams have a comprehensive understanding of the project, its objectives, and the challenges involved. They possess domain expertise and are closely involved in the day-to-day execution of the work. This contextual knowledge allows team members to make informed decisions that consider the broader project context, resulting in more relevant and effective choices.
  • Collective Intelligence: Self-organizing teams consist of individuals with diverse skills, experiences, and viewpoints. By leveraging this collective intelligence, teams can tap into a wide range of perspectives and ideas. Diverse perspectives foster creativity, encourage critical thinking, and promote innovation. Through collaborative decision-making processes, self-organizing teams can identify the best solutions, evaluate trade-offs, and make informed choices that benefit from the collective wisdom of the team.
  • Ownership and Accountability: Self-organizing teams are empowered to make decisions because they take ownership and accountability for the outcomes. When team members are responsible for their work, they are motivated to make decisions that align with the project’s goals and deliver value. This sense of ownership fosters a commitment to excellence, resulting in thoughtful decision-making and a higher level of engagement from team members.

12. Regularly reflect on how to become more effective

Agile teams should regularly reflect on how to become more effective because continuous improvement is a core principle of Agile methodologies. By taking time to reflect, teams can assess their processes, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes that enhance their efficiency and productivity. Regular reflection allows teams to learn from their experiences, celebrate successes, and address challenges. It promotes a culture of openness, learning, and adaptation, ensuring that the team remains responsive to feedback, evolving requirements, and changing market conditions. By actively seeking opportunities to improve, Agile teams can refine their practices, optimize their workflows, and ultimately deliver higher-quality outcomes that better meet customer needs.

The 12 principles of Agile basically sums up how a team should work or operate using the Agile approach. The practices from all the Agile frameworks and methodologies such as Scrum, Agile Project Management, SAFe and others, are aligned with the principles mentioned above. In the next article, we will share with you some of the Agile frameworks such as Agile Project Management and Scrum in a more detailed manner.

Learn more about the 12 principles of Agile

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