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Why Agile Works


This is the Engineering Culture Podcast, from the people behind and the QCon conferences.

In this podcast, recorded at Agile 2016, Shane Hastie, InfoQ Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to David Benz and Michael de la Maza about their minibook Why Agile Works, which is available at

Key Takeaways

  • In a startup you have to use an Agile approach – it just makes sense
  • It’s easy to teach practices, but with a foundation in the core values of agile then practice drive adoption of agile can be hell
  • There has been a recent resurgence in the recognition of the importance of the values
  • This can be a way to explain agile approaches to executives
  • Cutting through dysfunction requires addressing culture and assumptions

0m:35s - Introductions

1m:40s - In a startup you have to use an Agile approach – it just makes sense

2m:25s - A story of collaboration

3m:35s - Doing something small first – Emotion and Cognition article on InfoQ

4m:15s - Bad experiences with project-management driven rollout of agile practices without the values as a starting point

4m:35s - The agile community seemed to pull back from having a values-focus for a time

5m:05s - The resurgence of a focus on values in Agile, Scrum and Kanban

5m:15s - Scale by implementing a set of values rather than by practices

5m:55s - The argument against Cargo-cult agile

6m:25s - Ping pong rooms in large companies is a symptom of copycat behaviour – just doing what a startup does doesn’t provide a startup mindset

6m:40s - What works in one environment, where people enjoy being together, becomes a way of avoiding work in a different context

7m:00s - The Agile Manifesto is silent on practices – it is all about values and principles

7m:20s - This is a self-help book

7m:30s - The book has lots of dimensions and plenty of examples of why values matter, and how they make a difference

7m:50s - The audience includes managers who want to adopt a value-driven approach

8m:05s - It is for people who want to deepen their level of consciousness about the agile values, not just add another practice to their toolkit

8m:35s - This is a book to help explain agile approaches to executives

9m:20s - Key message: integrity and consistency.

9m:45s - The impact of practices which are at odds with corporate values

10m:35s - Some ways to identify and overcome organisational dysfunction

11m:10s - Example of “use technology to make a meeting better” – if the meeting is not productive, using technology will not make it better

13m:10s - Cutting through dysfunction requires addressing culture and assumptions

13m:35s - The resurgence of a values-driven approach; not just in agile but the greater gestalt that is happening in the world

14m:05s - Millennials have a different perspective about openness and transparency; examples include Everlane and Brathwait where their whole cost structure is visible to shoppers

14m:40s - Example of organisations which have taken a radically different approach to organising work – Valve

15m:05s - There is an interest in completely rethinking the way large companies are run

15m:25s - Collaboration and trust are not just intents, they are skills that have to be learned and practiced. We are getting better at it as a community

16m:00s - The book brings together research and ideas such as Laloux, Reinventing Organizations and Moore’s Crossing the Chasm to explore why the agile values are so important for today’s businesses

17m:05s - The big challenge is you can’t teach or insert values into people, you have to inspire them

17m:45s - We don’t know a lot about how to catalyse change in values – there is lots still to learn

17m:55s - Value change occurs when people confront something that their current framework can’t deal with, then change themselves

18m:10s - Games and simulations are one way to trigger this confrontation

18m:45s - Lyssa Adkins – Agilists as agents of social evolution

19m:15s - Change is a complex process: how do we apply agile ideas to changing organisations in the future?


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