Manifesto for Sustainable Agile
COVID-19 is proving to be a turning point in history. It is challenging our ability to adapt and explore different ways of life. The changes introduced by this crisis are extraordinary and can fundamentally reshape our beliefs and behaviours. The immediate short term measures, policies and direct experiences are already changing how we work, including greater emphasis on remote working, digital collaboration, workplace distancing, and support for temporary workers for example.
In last two decades, we’ve witnessed multiple industry trends – globalisation, rise of start-up ecosystem and technology innovations etc. that transformed ways of life and profoundly shifted business strategies across the industries. We’ve also experienced various methods and frameworks such as Lean, XP, Agile etc. that has helped companies optimise, expedite and transform business outcomes across the industries.
The global growth story had been underpinned by capitalism at the forefront with little or no consideration towards sustainability or without truly understanding the impact on the natural ecosystem. When majority of organisation goals are focused solely on driving revenue (or profits or margins), market share or growth with an insatiable appetite to go faster, the toolbox for success can only mirror the language of speed, cost and low (or no) failure. The long term impact on mankind is not everyone’s worry if you’re chasing the year on year growth. I am not saying all of sudden everyone should forget business goals and become charitable. However, the pressing needs of current times are shaking foundational beliefs and influencing new thinking towards a more balanced approach to drive sustainable outcomes – not just in near term, as a new normal way of doing business.
Now more than ever, business and government have a crucial role to play in protecting people’s health, bolstering the economy, and developing both practical solutions and game-changing innovations that will shape the recovery and beyond. The need for agility has never been greater. Over the long term, though, we know that the delivery of value to shareholders, employees, and society requires growth. And growth requires innovation and resilience as key ingredients. It’s imperative for everyone to balance the immediate measures and growth orientation with sustainable agility.
Why we need another Manifesto?
The Agile Manifesto (2001) at the time of writing had the primary focus to find better ways of developing software. Over the years, agile adoption has continued to expand not only within IT but also beyond IT in different organisational functions such as HR, Finance, Marketing and so on. The values and principles of agile remains timeless. However, the application of these values and principles need to be revisited.
We’re experiencing an unprecedented reality. As companies and leaders go through discovering and defining the new normal, we need a nimble yet resilient mindset to support different ways of working for everyone – be it software development , business operations or mission critical service operations. That’s the promise of the new manifesto.
The Manifesto for Sustainable Agile
The manifesto should serve as an extension to the Agile Manifesto as the guiding light for individuals, teams, leaders and enterprises to navigate these immediate turbulent times and discover a new normal, a better world for a better earth.
The four core values of Manifesto for Sustainable Agile are:
- Collocated minds over Collocated People
Technology has helped us prove that remote work at such a massive scale is possible. Studies have long proven collocated teams are better at delivery outcomes and gain alignment quickly. The effect of current situation will fundamentally shift how office spaces & collocation is perceived by individuals and leaders.
In post COVID-19 era and beyond, remote working may take a front seat giving people commute-free lifestyle combined with technology innovations. We are all learning and experience through a global movement that it is more important to have the power of minds, ideas and thoughts together and collocated through digital mediums and conferencing innovations etc. Physical collocation may prove not be an essential aspect for new normal where everyone will master the art of remote working.
- Collective Outcomes over Individual Outputs
The urge to measure individual productivity has always been of keen interest for people who are more focused on ROI over Impact. It has been a topic of debate over years in agile community that rather than measuring outputs or utilisation, one should measure outcomes. In my experience, outputs/utilisation measured in absolute number of hours or any time unit may have a NO direct relation to intellectual outcomes. A higher utilisation may also yield depreciation in form of burn-outs or partial failures due to excessive load/stress on individuals.
When we focus on collective outcomes, it drives collaboration, cooperation and team work. Successful organisations will find it a continuous endeavour and a critical mandate to work as a team (not individuals), leveraging collective strengths to deliver collective outcomes.
- Speed to Value over Speed to Market
In these times of stress, going faster isn’t the universal answer. Leaders must focus on anticipation and responsiveness along with the perceived opportunity value. Defining value is hard – leaders should carefully define components that make up the value. The components that create value would be different for different companies ranging from competitiveness, risk reduction, compliance or sustainability or other business drivers. When leaders define & manage priorities in the new era, they also need to consider greater good of society over traditional capitalist mindset.
- Empathy and Trust over Command and Control
During the current crisis and in the post-crisis era, empathy and trust would define success of leaders. Without empathy, there is no trust which directly impacts working relationships. At individual level, everyone is going through different set of challenges. The layoffs, lockdowns and health worries are showing an uprising trend. Leaders who continue to use authority and command to push people in these circumstances may lose respect. A truly nimble mindset which encourages people to be at their best while balancing their essential needs is really critical for now & beyond. A sustainable work culture, driven deeply by empathy and trust would promote unconditional loyalty.
The manifesto for Sustainable Agile brings inclusiveness for everyone in the new normal. It’s application is not limited to any particular domain, function, industry or team or business model. These core values can be universally applied to any and all of the below compositions:
- Domains of Work
- Types of Team Compositions
- Technology Functions
- Business Functions
- Business Models
Contribute to the Manifesto
I believe the best way to get the best possible version of anything is through a series of “inspect and adapt” cycles based on feedback form community at large. As a true believer of collective outcome over individual utilisation, I would like to capture insights and best practices from the global community so that the manifesto can become a living document.
To that end, the Manifesto for Sustainable Agile is open source and is released under the CC4-BY-SA license. Secondly, below is an opportunity to sign your support for the manifesto. I promise to continue to update the manifesto with names of signatories. Thank you in advance for your support.
Please also comment and reach out to me directly via email or twitter to provide your inputs. Let us make the new era a collaborative endeavour.
This manifesto is an attempt to reimagine the intent of agility for everyone with universal applicability in the new normal.
A black & white poster for the manifesto can be found here.