Agile Manifesto numero uno

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

This is a fantastic statement, mainly because it is counter intuitive to how I would think running an efficient group would work. When I first began at Boost I was a bit put off that despite the fact that we are a technology company we still work primarily on whiteboards and with sticky notes.

I have a tic that makes me think that if I am not contributing, then I don’t have value. To an extent it’s a true statement, but I often forget is that perhaps the way I think I should contribute is not what is needed. With that said, when I first began working at Boost I thought of a possible “fix” for them and asked, “Why are we still using sticky notes and whiteboards? Have you considered interactive screens and virtual notes? We could reference, search and track everything digitally?”

Thankfully the people at Boost are patient and nodded and smiled and simply said “We prefer this method. You’ll get a feel for it.”

I most definitely did. It wasn’t long before I noticed how portable, tactile and easy the boards and notes were. Plus when we sat around a table there were no screens to distract us from each other. When tasking out User Stories the team would crowd around them, into a tighter circle and quickly discuss possible actions. When it came time for rating the level of effort of a story everyone played with cards. Their eyes were free to look around the room at what everyone else threw down and how they felt about it.

I have a tendency to try to solve problems with technology mainly because I like tech so much. But in Agile teams, the people are more important than the technology and so must come first. I’ve learned that it is good to look at your processes and see what choices you’ve made around the team that automates something for them but deprives them of physical interaction.

Sometimes the benefit by far outweighs the disadvantages, but it’s important to know whether streamlining group activities is actually helping the group collaborate better or simply making an important process more convenient.

What examples do any of you have, where taking away a tool/process to encourage more hands on, face to face interactions have helped the team?

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