Saturday, August 8, 2009

Agile Training - Values & Principles Are Essential

(Just a short post today to put a stake in the ground for future posts.)

I believe it to be essential that any training for people (relatively) new to an agile approach include coverage of the values and principles, not just specific method practices and techniques.

Since most organizations are likely not to be able to instantly switch to a full agile approach, they will usually pursue some sort of "tailoring" as necessary to accommodate their situation. If they do not understand the Manifesto's values and principles, such "tailoring" may miss the point of the practice/technique being tailored. This will likely result in losing or, at least, diminishing the benefit intended by the original practice.

Substituting/changing practices may end up looking like the same thing is being accomplished on a surface level, but the larger value/intent behind the practice may be lost.

I have been brought in to coach/train organizations that have been pursuing an agile approach for a while. They often they feel they are not getting the benefit/experience they expected. The problems they bring me in to help address usually stem from an inadequate initial understanding of agile concepts. The organization has had training in method specifics, but seems not to have understood the broader context. The adaptations made to the method's practices (or invention of practices they felt were "missing" from their training) usually do not support an effective agile adoption.

At some point, such change/tailoring will have drifted them far enough from the agile values and principles that it hardly seems appropriate to keep calling what they are doing "agile." It may be an improvement over their old approach(es), but usually falls short of what they expected pursuing agile adoption to provide.

Because of this, I feel it is essential for people conducting agile-related training to make sure the values and principles are covered as the basis for any practice/technique training. In this way, an organization should, at least, be better able to understand the implications of the changes they feel they need to make and what they may be sacrificing by doing so.

(As I noted a couple days ago, I have guest blogged on this topic at Jurgen Appelo's blog and I expect to say more about this here in the future.)

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