I&I over P&T

Posted by Doc
Aug 16 2010

One of the value statements from A Manifesto for Agile Software Development is:

Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools

For those who are not familiar with the Manifesto, what it says about the value statements is: “…while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

So this bit says “while there is value in Processes and Tools, we value Individuals and Interactions more.”

I always enjoy this one, when presenting or sharing it. First, because I work for ThoughtWorks, where we are experts on processes and tools. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Beyond that, though, is the relevance and power in this value statement.

Why do we have processes and tools? I’d argue it’s in service of having to think about those things – the mechanisms and details – less, so that we are free to be creative, productive, and do things other than thinking about the processes and tools.

It’s like my “shower principle”: I wash myself the same way every day. The process is the same every day. As a result, I don’t have to think about the process, and am free to think about other things.

So from this perspective, processes and tools are enablers. They should free us to do the things only we can do, and save us from spending a lot of time thinking about the processes or tools. Developers will frequently tell you that they have strong attachments to their tools-of-choice. Why? Because they know how to use them and don’t have to think about the tools. As a result, they spend most of the time thinking about their code – how to make it better, how to make it satisfy its goals, how to be more creative,…

One of the many things I like about “Agile” and the Agile Manifesto is that they apply to far more than software development. That’s part of what I liked about my exchange with my brother the other day (see “Family Self-organization“). As a brief follow-up, when my brother said to his daughters “I’m offering my iPhone to one of you and $XXX to the other. You decide which is which.”, the girls decided within minutes.

I like this statement from Simon Baker: “Put the right people in the right environment and trust them to get things done.”

Yes, Simon, yes!

2 Responses

  1. Nitin says:

    I was about to write a post on my blog about the use of Tools in s/w development. Now, after reading this post, I will have a few more things to add.

    But personally, after spending a year in TW India, I feel TW does not really value interactions and individuals over process and tool, or maybe I was just unfortunate. Or maybe TWers only value I&I when people in question are all familiar with all the P&T. So when a newcomer like me comes in who has no idea about the standard P&T, your next seat TWer is not interested in I&I coz I dont speak his language of P&T. Thats just sad – it is only going to make things harder for joining the TW family.

    Aarrggh… I know you probably wouldnt want this on your post, go ahead delete it, I just had to vent

    • Doc says:

      In the spirit of transparency, I have no problem posting your comment, Nitin. There are lots of former ThoughtWorkers out there, many of whom might share your sentiments. I feel fortunate that I’ve largely had very good experience with people at TW. And I also know that it’s not a perfect place. If your experience can help others learn – whether inside TW or outside – then it’s valuable.

      You raise a couple of interesting and challenging topics for me to think about. “On-boarding” is always a challenge – it’s like jumping on a moving bus. You never know whether someone is going to reach out a hand or not. The language of the domain – in your case, the processes and tools – is another challenge area. It sounds like there were expectations that you would “just get it” or something, which is unfair. And it’s pretty common here, isn’t it?

      ThoughtWorks is an interesting, and frequently challenging, place to work.

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