Being Agile (Part 1 – Foundation)

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.[1]

Being agile is being mindful. Mindful of the present (Openness); Mindful of those around you (Empathy/Respect); Mindful of uncertainty and fear (Courage); Mindful of the underlying goodness of every moment (Trust).[2]

Agile Values

What are your values?

Being agile is built on five core beliefs.

Respect: The backbone of agile teams. Without respect then everything else falls apart. Respect is the glue that holds everything together.

Openness: The limbs of agile teams. What is your body language like? Are you accepting of others, their faults, their quirks, their ideas, their values? Being open means sharing, collaborating, smiling, being curious.

Trust: The gut of agile teams. The more vulnerable you are the more people trust you. If you put yourself out there then you will be able to build more trust. Oxymoronic, right? When you give off an air of invulnerability then you become unapproachable, less human thus you create a barrier for others to trust you.

Courage: The heart of agile teams. Our values are not just the values we believe and practice as individuals but the values we walk past. If we see a lack of trust or disrespect happening around us and walk past it then that becomes our value. We must be prepared as individuals and teams to overcoming the uncomfortableness  and call out disrespect, lack of trust, close mindedness and that takes courage.

Empathy: The eyes and ears of agile teams. Are we engaged listeners? Do we see with compassion? Instead of judging the things others are not good at we can instead help people to learn the things that we are good at.[3]

Agile Principles

What are your principles?

Being agile builds on top of the five values by establishing 3 key principles.

Clarity of Outcome: The clear outcome is your north star. Let it guide you; align your team towards it. Remember a clear outcome focuses on the customer and business value.

Iterate: Listen, iterate, learn, think, and course correct. Be lean, fast, adaptable, and flexible. Do not worry about perfect, it does not exist rather strive for continuous improvement.

Unleash innovation: Empower your teams to be self-directed and create a culture of collaboration. You will become more flexible, fault tolerant and innovative this way. You never know where that next brilliant idea will come from.

Imagine the 3 principles as light (clarity of outcome), earth (iterate), and water (unleash innovation). Imagine yourself as a plant. The light helps you grow straight and upright. The earth helps you stay grounded and spread your roots deep and wide. The water will nourish you so that you will eventually produce delicious low hanging fruits that will benefit others.

Agile Practices

What are your practices?

Being agile provides a toolbox of practices that can help guide and align teams to the values and principles. You pick and choose the right tool that is most suitable for the job at hand.


Figure 1: Kanban Board One of The Agile Practices.[4]


A Japanese teaching on how you learn a technique.

The idea is that a person passes through three stages of gaining knowledge[5]:

  • Shu: Follow. The student follows the process as described with no focus on the underlying theory.
  • Ha: Break. The student begins to branch out. She starts to adapt to make the process better, learning from other sources and integrating that learning into her practice.
  • Ri: Transcend. The student isn’t learning from other people, but from her own practice. She creates her own approach and adapts what she’s learned to her own context.

Stage 1: Focus on concrete steps to imitate.

Stage 2: Focus on understanding principles and branching out.

Stage 3: Transition into self-directed innovation.

Being agile will enable you to maximize your abilities and to produce top notch quality on time. It will remove the shackles that have chained you, slowed you down, and dampened your creativity.

Best regards,
Wisam Al Abed
(Reviewed by Gráinne Dolan and Amira Elias)



IBM Agile Academy Training

[1] Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Available at: [Accessed: 28 Nov, 2016]

[2] Babauta, Leo. The Path of Fearlessness. Available at: [Accessed: 28 Nov, 2016]

[3] Updates to the Scrum Guide – The 5 Scrum values take center stage. Available at: [Accessed: 8 Dec, 2016]

[4] Harel, Shirly Ronen. Power of Sticky Notes. Available at: [Accessed: 28 Nov, 2016].

[5] Fowler, Martin. ShuHaRi. Available at: [Accessed: 29 Nov, 2016].


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