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What does Agile mean?

What do I think Agile is?

For me, Agile is a set of beliefs that helps us make decisions about creating great outcomes. If we hold true to the Agile Values, it shapes the way we think.

Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto was written in 2001 by seventeen independent-minded software practitioners. My understanding is the group gathered for a 3-day retreat at Snowbird in Utah. I’m uncertain as to how much skiing was done but have it on good authority that lots of schnapps was consumed over the 3 days. The other thing they did was discuss software development and while not everyone always agreed on that, they did find consensus around the 4 Agile Values and 12 Agile Principles.

Over time, the Agile Values have been embraced much more broadly than just software development – in other parts of the business, within support services (including PMOs) and in a variety of different industries - so I have replaced the word software with solutions below. It seems to help people who are not software developers see that it could apply to their world.

The manifesto, a specific philosophy, is shown below.

We are uncovering better ways of developing solutions by doing it and helping others to do it. Through this work, we have come to value:

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Upon reading the manifesto, lots of people make the mistake of thinking ‘over’ means ‘never’. For example, they read ‘Working Solutions over comprehensive documentation’ and conclude that Agile requires no documentation (or processes and tools, contracts, or any plan). Agile is a set of beliefs to guide actions and decision making, not an excuse to abandon years of common-sense practices that underpin quality. The focus is on delivering value to the customer and adapting to change – it is assumed we do that without breaking the business. That means testing, release management, training and operational handovers are still required – how else do you release a quality product?!

What if we re-wrote the Agile Manifesto for PMOs?

Often in coaching or training sessions my PMO clients will say, “the manifesto doesn’t relate to my role or I can’t see the connection or it’s all about software development and my team doesn’t do that”.

Or, early in an engagement, a PMO client might say “we need a framework, templates, and tools… how soon can you do that, so we can go Agile?”.

My starting point for teaching PMO’s about Agile is the values. The 2nd step is making it relevant, so for PMOs, I have developed the Agile PMO manifesto.

We are uncovering better ways to help project teams succeed by doing it and helping others to do it. Through this work, we have come to value:

The Agile PMO wording reflects the original manifesto values, but more interesting for me is that it directly correlates with the key challenges that PMOs need to overcome if they are to stay relevant and thrive.

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