The Agile Manifesto Demands We Win Over Hearts and Minds

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The order of statements in the Agile Manifesto is important, and first on the list is

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

It’s easy to gloss right over it. I did at first; but then I realized that people do the exact opposite all the time. When process improvements are presented, it’s often with the assumption that the new process is an end in and of itself, ignoring the actual problem.

“Our documentation is bad, so from now on all projects need to submit design documentation for approval before development can begin.”

This has almost zero chance of working. With a deadline looming, this rule crumbles under an onslaught of “business need”. Any documentation that does manage to squirt out is crappy.

The “people over process” part of the manifesto tells us that instead of instituting a policy to magically fix the problem, we need to focus on people. We need to win over hearts and minds. Yes, it’s that dramatic and that important. Once the people are convinced that they want a solution, change happens quickly. It’s the whole carrot/stick honey/vinegar thing.

In the previous case, winning hearts means helping people understand how better documentation will benefit them, and to make them want it. Someone’s going to have to talk to all those people. Someone’s going to have to keep at it for as long as it takes.

It’s way easier to declare a policy and walk away than change peoples’ minds, but the policy won’t really get anything done.

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