CHOW #134 – Individual Discipline in Agile

“Yes. Individual discipline is a key component of an Agile organisation. I will tell you why…”

Why and how is individual discipline a key component of an Agile organisation? Can you discuss this in terms of the Agile principles of Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools, Responding to Change over Following a Plan, Simplicity?

Suggested Solution:

“Where do I start? Okay. One of the key values mentioned in the Agile manifesto is ‘Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools.’ Nobody interprets this to mean that no methodologies or processes are needed. What the value tells you is that you should not live for documentation and processes. They are needed when it is to your advantage. Knowing this balance can only come from individual discipline.”

“That’s great. You are right.”

“Another value is ‘Responding to Change over Following a Plan’. This again does not mean that you can develop and maintain a system by haphazardly implementing changes. Again here individual discipline is needed to strike the balance.”

“What about ‘Simplicity’?”

“Yes, another key principle enshrined in the Agile manifesto is ‘Simplicity’. You need discipline to interpret this properly and deliver what the customer wants. Simplicity should not be interpreted as simplistic. And, I don’t have to tell you how important individual discipline is in self organisation. These are only a few instances of why you need individual discipline for an Agile organisation to succeed and maintain itself Agile. You need individual discipline in every aspect of Agile. I know what you are thinking. Yes, there are certain times when you cannot be spending too much about what your action is going to be. There are times when you have to let your gut feel lead you. Sometimes you will not have times to think and arrive at the perfect solution.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Let me illustrate this. There was once a teacher and a student. The teacher was a wise sage who had taught his student the importance of mindfulness and meditation. One day, they were walking from the teacher’s hermitage to the river to bathe. Suddenly they heard a sound behind them. When they turned they saw the terrible sight of a leopard stalking them, and ready to pounce on them. The master cried ‘Run for your life and jump into the river. In the water we may have a chance to escape the leopard’. But, the student said, ‘Master, I cannot believe that you are making this decision without thinking about it. I want to be aware of the situation and then react to it.’ By the time the student said this, the master was far away and the tiger had pounced on him and killed him.”

“Ha, yes. I understand. You can also overdo things if you do not have individual discipline.”

“Exactly. Here you cannot decry what the master did. Evolution has made us this way. When our early ancestors were living in the Savannas of Africa, fighting with the other animals for survival, if they heard a sound near them and they waited to think too long about it, they might have become leopard-chow or lion-chow. . So, they had to react quickly, and run away. Even now when you are out on a walk and you hear a car out of control behind you, you better jump without thinking. Else…”


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