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Agile Principles

Agile is a holistic approach to driving collaboration and validated learning in teams, especially in teams designing and implementing products, services and solutions. 

Adapting work processes as ideas succeed or fail. 

Like the Seven Crucial Conversations (7CCs) or Lean Six Sigma it approaches teams and organizations as social systems. Agile includes: a set of principles, leadership and management practices, a leadership mindset and a system of roles. Success with agile lies in “understanding agile”, “doing agile,” and “being agile” on your own and in teams (in relationship with team members).

What are the key characteristics of Agile?

  • Collaborating and learning in teams.
  • Practicing validate learning:
    • Planning projects by grouping tasks into short phases of work called sprints.
    • Frequently validating tangible deliverables from a customer perspective. 
    • Frequently adapting plans .
  • Avoiding the pitfalls of the waterfall approach, which stem from focusing on documentation and plans without frequent validation or adaptation.

Where does Agile come from?

  • It originated in software development and then spread to other contexts, functions and industries.
  • It is based on four principles (adapted here from the Manifesto for Agile Software Development). The idea of these four principles is to intentionally prioritize and practice certain ways of thinking and acting above others. All agile practices and tools can be understood as implementation approaches for these principles.
  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working solutions and systems over documentation and plans.
  3. Customer collaboration over transactional relationships.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan. 
  • Here are a few key conclusions about Agile based on these principles
    • Put people and relationships first, because all work and success happens in the context relationships, not the other way around.
    • Customers are the ultimate arbiters of value, so any work done or deliverables produced are potentially waste done until they have been validated with customers.
    • A central question in Agile is how to organize work and deliverables to validate with customers as you go along?
      • What do you show them when?
      • How do you make that experience satisfying for them and you?
      • How do you resist the temptation to avoid the risk of engaging in order to jump to a final “product”, which is the riskiest course of action?
      • How do you instead create a relationship with your customers where you are on a journey together?
      • What are the ideal way points on that journey, moments where customers can pass judgement and maximum learning can be attained? For example a simple prototype that enables a customer to envision a more complex product is better than a complex product description.

What are the implications of these four principles for agile?

Application Principles For Agile
1) Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.


  • Leaders and teams are trained and rewarded to practice a mindset of leadership, learning and collaboration.
  • Self-organizing teams are recognized as the organizational structure most likely to develop the best approaches and designs.
  • Technical experts are encouraged to focus on technical excellence and proper design in the context of validated learning.
2) Working solutions and systems over documentation and plans.
  • Simplicity is an essential element because when there are fewer variables those that add real value can be more easily discerned from those that do not.
  • Validated learning is achieved by frequently providing customers with deliverables in a form that enable them to judge value and overall trajectory.
3) Customer collaboration over transactional relationships.
  • Project leaders and stakeholders collaborate closely and frequently.
  • Authentic, trusting, rewarding, effective and efficient relationships are deemed essential and meetings are planned accordingly.
4) Responding to change over following a plan.
  • A change narrative is developed that builds a shared language and powerfully motivates how all stakeholders and team members think, feel, act and align towards change and a desired future state.
  • Measurable progress towards a final working product and validated solution is the ultimate measure of success.
  • Teams and stakeholders are able to maintain a constant and ongoing pace.
  • The Seven Crucial Conversations are regularly assessed and key issues driven to resolution.


How do you translating the four principles of agile into action? The Seven Crucial Conversations are a perfect framework. 

Links from Links to
Agile Team

Business Agility Principles (The Leaders Guide To Radical Management)

  1. The goal of work is to delightt the client: this is the focus on creating client centricity, where we place the customer at the heart of everything we do, moving from an inside-out organisation to an outside-in organisation.
  2. Work is conducted in self-organising teams: creating smaller, cross-functional, self-organising teams allows autonomy and empowerment to individuals in decentralised decision making.
  3. Teams operate in client-driven iterations: moving away from larger, monolithic projects and programmes to breaking down initiatives into smaller iterations, focusing on valuable client requirements.
  4. Each iteration delivers value to the client: at the end of the iteration, we would want to
    deliver a product or service to the end client, so that they can derive value from it receiving continuous feedback.
  5. Managers foster radical transparency: openness and trust are encouraged through creating high levels of visibility throughout the organisation. This enables continuous improvement.
  6. Managers nurture continuous self-improvement: creating safe-to-fail environments, where teams and individuals can experiment as an opportunity to build-measure-learn, in order to improve the processes they adopt, which will improve the products and services they deliver to market.
  7. Managers communicate interactively through stories, questions and conversations: authentic, genuine communication, both up and down the chain of command.
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