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Getting to Know the Agile Pillars

Reading: Getting to Know the Agile Pillars
Getting to Know the Agile Pillars

The term Agile Pillars is just another name for the four core values that were laid out in the Agile Manifesto. They were intended to guide teams as they navigate their work.

The Agile Manifesto Pillars are:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The Agile Manifesto also contains a list of 12 principles which go into greater level of detail than the pillars. You can check out the principles here.

The 3 Pillars of Scrum

Then, there’s Scrum, and when Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber got together and created Scrum, they also wrote the Scrum Guide to clearly define the process. In the guide, they have a section called Scrum Theory where they outline a set of principles, they call the Scrum Pillars.

The 3 Pillars of Scrum are:

  • Transparency
  • Inspection
  • Adaptation

Agile Transformation Pillars?

With all of these “pillars” floating around, it comes as no surprise that many Agile Practitioners have hijacked the word pillars and began extrapolating and adding meaning to it to support various frameworks and world views around Transformation.

A quick internet search will reveal that some websites claim there are four Agile Transformation Pillars. Others say there are six. But they’re different from one another so it’s hard to rationalize a clear-cut set outside the context of a writers’ opinion and experience.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. We’re not here to make a value judgment on other people’s take on the existence of Agile Transformation Pillars or not. We certainly aren’t here to throw stones at the authors of the Manifesto or Jeff and Ken for that matter.

There’s no doubt that the Manifesto, the Scrum Guide, and probably the various versions of Agile Transformation Pillars you’ve seen have all helped many people and their organizations.

What we are here to say is that there exists an even more fundamental set of truths up underneath Agile, Scrum, and Agile Transformation. One that is more vital than the values of the Manifesto and the principles in the Scrum Guide.

Because without these three fundamental things, nothing else in Agile works.

The 3 Things that Make Agile Work

Even before the Manifesto was written, people were exploring better ways to work and learning better ways to build software. And from those early learnings, we got many of the methodologies we know today.

Methodologies like Scrum. But also, like Crystal, Lean Software Development, FDD, and DSDM. All these methodologies were around before anyone ever coined the term Agile. And they all had something in common. Something the Scrum Guide says implicitly, but that we want to make super explicit.

They were all predicated on our ability to form teams, build backlogs, and produce a working tested increment of product at the end of a predetermined time period. And the processes of each methodology were designed to enable those 3 Things.

“In the absence of teams, backlogs, and working tested product—nothing else in Agile works.”

Fast forward a few years, and there are tons of certifications teaching people how to “do” Agile which has resulted in an army of Agile practitioners who have no idea how to overcome the barriers that get in the way of the 3 Things.

And so, many organizations are simply going through the motions of Agile without getting the benefits.

Agile Pillars, Scrum Pillars, Agile Transformation Pillars will only take you so far. At the end of the day, the work of an Agile Transformation is all about breaking the dependencies and removing the barriers that get in the way of teams, backlogs, and working tested product.

Next What is Agile Transformation?

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