Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Client: ‘They aren’t actioning my request!’
Jim: ‘When did you ask them for it?’
Client: ‘Let me think… I raised a ticket in Jira a week or so ago and nothing has happened.’
That was an actual conversation we had with a client last year. They were astonished that another team hadn’t actioned a request that they had sent via Jira. Just to be clear, they hadn’t followed it up with any other communication; they had just raised a ticket in Jira.
The Agile Manifesto’s first core value states that we have come to value Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Did you know?
This article is based on a video and podcast that we recorded in September.
A key word in that statement is ‘over’. It is not suggesting that we don’t use any tools or have any processes; it is stating that we should not use those as our primary method of communication.
The manifesto, written nearly 20 years ago, was trying to make improvements in a world very different from today’s (e.g. video conferencing was only seen in sci-fi films). But unlike some commentators, we believe that the sentiments are still as valid today. Then, as today, many people fall foul of using tools as go-betweens, rather than having that face-to-face conversation. Many teams still ‘chuck work over the fence’ once they feel their obligation to the task has been completed. We still hear some managers focusing more on implementing tools like Jira and pushing the Scrum events (e.g. Sprint Planning, Sprint Retrospectives) than they do on engaging their customers to understand user needs (because the former are easier, more tangible and visible.
We would prefer to see discussions and developments of ideas that come from human interaction. Understanding how we can help customers, how we can help each other, how we are going to work, etc. Doing this through human interaction significantly reduces communication waste. Looking at our example from the start of this post, how much time was wasted waiting for someone to respond to that Jira ticket?
Ideally, the team will focus on talking to their users and stakeholders, rather than focusing on how to use Jira [Ed: Just to be clear, the issue is with people focusing on it and becoming reliant upon it, not with the tool itself]
Supported by principles
So which of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto do you feel are most relevant to this core value?
Jim and David chose the 3 principles which they felt were most relevant to the core value:
Make the change
Be prepared for some resistance though: culture and behaviour is engrained in organisations, so people might push back when asked to spend more time talking face-to-face. Fortunately, there are many ways to structure such conversations into your day. Scrum provides us with ready-made forums for communication in terms of the Daily Scrum and so on.
In addition, we suggest you find tools that encourage face-to-face communication, and agree how to use them to maximise face time (e.g. Zoom with cameras turned on as the default approach and using breakout rooms for smaller, focused conversations rather than faceless text conversations on Slack). Maybe try Fika, the Swedish concept of making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of something and something to eat. However you do it, make face-to-face communication your default approach for discussions/decisions/etc … and back them up with tools (e.g. email, Jira) if needed.
In short, talk!
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