When we talk about agile methodologies, we must understand that they are a series of practical principles and values on which they serve as a guide regarding how to act. Specifically, there are 12 agile principles for project management regardless of the methodology, as long as we seek streamline processes.
Scrum, XP, KanBan, Lean, all these methodologies work as long as we understand how these 12 agile principles work, since these are the basis for understanding the processes, meetings and deliverables.
These values and principles are based on the agile manifesto, a document that details these fundamentals to live a process rather than a series of rules, of having an agile mentality when facing the challenges of a project.
Note: The agile manifesto, as well as the 12 agile principles are focused on software development, however in this article we make small modifications to make its application in any type of project
Principle 1 — Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable content.
Waste is any product that the customer is not willing to pay for.
At the moment of constantly delivering content to the client, you have a closer idea about what they want, and the final product will be according to their constantly established needs.
Principle 2 — Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
One of the most important concepts in agile methodologies and a very important paradigm shift in teams is the concept of accepting changes within the project.
Many projects close the adjustments to the value content to the initial requirements, which can cause that at the end of the project, the product does not generate value for the customer.
By making constant deliveries, the changes are timely in the project and what is obtained from it guarantees as much as possible that the needs for which the client created the project, will be met.
The idea is to see everything as a work in progress that is always possible to improve in order to meet the goals of the project.
Principle 3 — Deliver value frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
This principle is as a consequence of the previous two, where a time scale is established where the shorter the periods between deliveries to the client, the better the feedback received.
This point is particularly difficult for small, medium and large companies, since for small companies a couple of weeks can seem like an eternity, and for a very large company with a lot of bureaucracy, a couple of weeks is very little.
For the project manager, it is important to find the right period to be able to obtain feedback from the clients of the deliverables, without generating a sense of overwhelm for the client and the team.
It is best to designate from the beginning the participants of these deliveries and the time periods that will be used, so that during the project, these events are expected and the mentality of frequent deliveries does not generate as much impact among those involved.
Principle 4 — Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
One of the most frequent mistakes in a project is creating a communication gap between the team and the clients, between those who make the decisions and those who have to have a clear understanding of the project.
Ideally, those involved in the project, mainly those who are clear about what they want to obtain from the project and those who are executing it, should have daily communication.
An important part is not being afraid to involve clients in team meetings, progress reports, and above all, fostering questions of value and relevant to the project.
Principle 5 — Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
The ideas that most generate motivation in a team are: Autonomy, mastery and purpose.
By autonomy we mean giving the team the confidence to generate a value process in which they feel more productive and where they can feel that they have control of the beginning and end of the finished work.
By giving them autonomy, we must always seek to obtain the best version of the team members, through mentoring, training or spaces for self-learning, during the course of the project the members must be able to be a better version of themselves.
One of the most forgotten elements in projects is sharing with the team the objective and how the project is going to generate an impact. One of the things that matters most to a person is knowing that their work has meaning and purpose, beyond financial gain.
Principle 6 — The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
Although documentation is key within any project, since it generates written evidence regarding different administrative aspects, nothing is better than direct communication.
Verbal communication should be encouraged, this is born from the idea of value interactions over contract negotiation. Teams often communicate through documents, mail, or other non-personal means.
There is no better way to generate valuable communication, effective messages and even human interactions than by talking in person.
NOTE: This does not mean that meetings should be abused, there must be a balance between communication and letting people work.
Principle 7 — Valuable delivery is the primary measure of progress.
It can be tempting in many projects to mark certain milestones as measures of progress, be it the signing of documents or handing over certain products for quality review.
The reality is that progress must be measured based on complete deliverables that together can form the final product.
By no means does this mean that the only milestone is the total delivery of the project, but rather that the milestones in which the project is broken down have to be designed so that they form value within the scope of the project.
It is important that within each project there is a clear definition of finished work, since this can mean different things for clients, collaborators, even between industries this concept can vary.
Principle 8 — Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
It is important not to see this principle from the wrong point of view, since it is focused on avoiding excessive fatigue of a team.
A project is more like running a marathon than a 100-meter race, pushing yourself to go full speed will eventually drain your team.
It is better to have a clear idea of the effort that has to be made, and to maintain a constant pace, without being overwhelming for all the participants of the team.
The agile methodology encourages perseverance, effort and discipline, beyond flashes of effort that do not give certainty to the execution of a project.
Principle 9 — Continuous attention to excellence in process and design increases agility.
A key part of agile processes is paying attention to details within the project.
Being able to identify problems, opportunities for improvement and continuous analysis of product quality have greater benefits than “hiding things under the rug.”
A clear example of this is the analogy that it takes a person longer to cut down a tree with a dull ax than one who spends an hour sharpening his tool in order to do his job better.
The pursuit of excellence will always foster agility, as long as action always precedes evaluation.
Principle 10 — Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
It is important that the processes and elements of a project, both at the level of value generation and in project management, have a degree of simplicity.
This does not mean that its value is diminished, on the contrary, the efforts of the team and the project have to be focused on the key elements that generate value.
In any project there are activities that do not generate a benefit, neither to the process nor to the product. The power to simplify, is to eliminate these activities to reduce the complexity in the project.
It is better to perform a simplified product excellently than to fail a very complex product.
Principle 11 — The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
The agile project philosophy seeks to eliminate micro-management of projects.
An important point of the project is the choice of the team, however once the team is chosen, an environment of trust must be generated in order to get the best out of it.
The self-organization of the team means that the monitoring, application and execution of the tasks is carried out by the team members, following the finished work metric.
Communication within the team is key, so that they work together to promote the process of continuous improvement, simplicity, constant deliveries and as a consequence, the generation of value.
Principle 12 — At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Feedback and self-evaluation meetings are key to maintaining a continuous improvement process.
These reflection processes regarding results foster high-performance teams and successful projects.
It is important not to wait for the project to be completed, internal or interdisciplinary feedback meetings can be generated at the end of a milestone or on designated dates.