Principles Should be Public

July 2, 2013 Jonathan Berger

True Story

Once upon a time, there was a client who struggled with the Agile process. It’s not that he wasn’t smart and curious, and it’s not that he didn’t want to build a great product in a domain he knew lots about, but he had a thorny problem: because he was successful, and because he was smart, he just wanted to build this new digital product the way he’d successfully built (non-digital) products before: top-down and waterfall. He didn’t want to make decisions about the details. He refused to look at Pivotal Tracker.

He came to us because he’d heard “Pivotal’s the best”, but he didn’t put together that the process—pairing, testing, short feedback loops, collective ownership of the product, writing the smallest possible stories that deliver user-facing value—were the reason we were successful. We tried to educate, we tried to make the case, we tried to explain Agile, but nothing really worked. He didn’t have the patience, and he just wanted to know why we weren’t building a product that was perfect.

Everything Changed

One day, a Pivot on the project printed up the Agile Manifesto and hung it on the wall. That’s it. Nothing else.

Nothing happened the first day.

Nothing happened the second day.

On the third day, the client, of his own volition, pointed to the manifesto and asked a question: “What’s that?”. We started to tell him, and that opened up the conversation. He was smart and inquisitive and curious, and the more he learned about Agile, the more he understood why we insisted on tight feedback loops, small stories, and user feedback.

The moral of the story: post your principles. Make them public. Let everyone see them. Make them a part of the space you inhabit, and it becomes a little easier to make sure they’re present in your practice.


Update (2014-07-28): In the spirit of post your principles, here’re a bunch of desktop backgrounds to help keep agile and extreme-programming principles in-view and top-of-mind. Download the full set of Agile Desktop Backgrounds.

About the Author


Mobile Banking & Commerce Summit
Mobile Banking & Commerce Summit

Having just returned from the 7th annual Mobile Banking and Commerce Summit in Miami, I wanted to share my ...

Inception: Knowing what to build and where you should start
Inception: Knowing what to build and where you should start

We start every project with Inception, a discovery exercise that sets the scene for a project and produces ...