What are the 4 agile values? (Plus why they were created)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Agile is a term that is most recognisable as a method of project management within the software development industry. Through an exploration of each of the values of agile, why their creation was necessary and how they relate to the subsequent creation of the 12 Agile Manifesto principles, you can develop your understanding of this concept. A better understanding of agile values directly corresponds to better management of future software development projects. In this article, we examine the four agile values, explain why they were created, and review the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto.

What are agile values?

Agile values are relevant to software development. They were first created in 2001 by a group of 17 software engineers as a new project management methodology. According to the Agile Manifesto, there are four values of agile:

  1. Prioritise individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

  2. Consider the working product before comprehensive documentation.

  3. Look at customer collaboration before contract negotiation.

  4. Respond to change during production, if this is necessary, rather than vehemently sticking to the original plan.

Here is some more information on the four values:

1. Individuals and interactions

The first value of agile aims to boost communication between software developers and their clients. It demands a setting aside of time wherein clients can sit down with their software developers and outline exactly what they want from the final product. This gives developers a definitive list to cast back on and prioritise throughout the project's construction. Rather than obsessing over meeting the constraints of a specific project management methodology, a software developer has a new set of guidelines to work with. Not only does this limit digression from requirements, but it also improves client satisfaction and client-developer relations.

Related: How to improve your communication skills (with steps)

2. The working product

The second value reaffirms the importance of the final project. Rather than focusing on documenting what is to happen, a team of software developers focuses only on the deliverables highlighted by the client in the first agile value. In other project management methodologies, the process was more of a priority than a client's requirements. The second value brings the client back to the forefront, making it the responsibility of team members to ensure the inclusion of each deliverable. This is so that when the developer presents the final project, they're able to show off each deliverable, boosting client satisfaction.

Related: 8 types of project deliverables (definitions and examples)

3. Customer collaboration

Included in the Agile Manifesto is the third agile value's promise of factoring in increased client collaboration into the process of creating a product. Traditional project management approaches dictate that client consultation happens only when the product is about to begin and after it finishes. This led to a waste of time, money and resources as objectives got missed, meaning that the process had to restart.

By keeping the client involved in the process, as the third agile value says, their requirements are more closely met. Not only does this help a company turn a profit as there's less waste, but it also boosts client relations. Their satisfaction with a product increases as they're given exactly what they asked for. They also feel heard and are much more likely to bring a software developer more business or recommend them elsewhere.

Related: What does collaboration mean in the workplace?

4. Respond to change over following a plan

The fourth agile value sets to correct the approach of traditional project management methodologies by allowing for fluctuation. It isn't often that the creation of a project goes exactly to plan. A client might come to developers partway through the construction process and ask to swap one feature of the product for another. Other frameworks with set plans wouldn't allow for this change, which would result in client dissatisfaction. With much more flexible plans, a project manager can easily accommodate changes. Such adaptation is necessary for the quality and satisfaction of a product.

Related: What is an epic in Agile (with definition and examples)

Why were agile values created?

Agile values are a set of solutions designed to rectify the frustration that software developers and clients felt in relation to project management methodologies, such as Royce's Waterfall model. This is because there were major disparities in what these project management methodologies set out to create and what they created. As a result of this, clients saw enormous setbacks on initial deadlines. Developers were more concerned with the documentation surrounding the project than with the actual project, adding more time to ensure the completion of all relevant paperwork. This left clients dissatisfied, dropping developers and abandoning projects.

The Agile Manifesto set out to be different. Its values aimed to help software developers focus on what was important. Rather than dragging them behind schedule with issues not nearly as important as the final project, software developers could focus solely on a project. They also made room for advancement. This was another issue cited with other project management methodologies. They couldn't handle the demands that the ever-changing field of software development posed. Agile values allow software developers to adapt to innovations within the field and incorporate this into projects to increase performance and efficiency.

Related: Agile project planning (with characteristics and benefits)

Agile Manifesto principles

Besides the four agile values of the Agile Manifesto, there are also 12 distinct principles:

1. Ensure client satisfaction

The ultimate priority, according to the Agile Manifesto, is to ensure client satisfaction as this is a project's scope of success. Client satisfaction brings in new business and keeps companies alive. Businesses with poor client satisfaction are unlikely to succeed.

2. Divide up tasks

The Agile Manifesto stresses the importance of dividing up tasks. By breaking one requirement down into a series of smaller, more achievable steps, a team is much more likely to get it the right first time and satisfy the client. It allows a team to avoid overcomplicating things.

Related: How to create a work breakdown structure (with helpful tips)

3. Stick to the set timeline

The key to ensuring client satisfaction is sticking to the timeline first set. If there are a series of delays, a client becomes irritable and can even abandon the project. In some cases, they may even take their business to the competition.

4. Collaborate with shareholders

By promoting regular communication between shareholders and the project management, there's an added promise that a project is going in the right direction. Not just this, but if necessary, a project can get additional financing or materials straight away. Any delay may push a project behind schedule.

5. Support team members

The Agile Manifesto also sets out that they create a supportive environment for team members. This is to ensure that there is sufficient motivation regarding the completion of a project. This can lead to an increase in quality, overall speed and fewer mistakes.

Related: 14 examples of motivation in the workplace to consider

6. Communicate face to face

Face to face is the preferred means of communication in the Agile Manifesto. This is to ensure that there are no misinterpretations made by either side. Where there is confusion, mistakes often follow. This can lead to a drain on resources and a dissatisfied client. Face-to-face communication also promotes a better working relationship.

7. Prioritise working software

Rather than prioritising the process of creating the final product, the Agile Manifesto dictates that a working piece of software is the ultimate measure of progress. This is because it makes for client satisfaction. This is due to there being a greater emphasis on the inclusion of their requirements.

Related: How to create a software project plan (with steps and tools)

8. Set a pace

According to the Agile Manifesto, a pace gets set and stuck to within a team. They keep the pace between project managers, shareholders and the client. This ensures a project's timeline has consistent development along the way.

9. Maintain quality

A key part of agile values is maintaining quality throughout the development of a project, as this leads directly to client satisfaction. This means that a team has to pay close, technical attention to each detail within a project. It saves company resources in the long run if this is the case from the start.

Related: What is project quality management? (Tools and benefits)

10. Maintain simplicity

Quality and simplicity go hand in hand. By breaking a bigger task up into smaller, manageable chunks, the entire process becomes simpler. This makes it easier to complete a project to a high standard as it keeps over-complication and digression to a minimum.

11. Maintain self-organisation

It often makes sense to allow elements of self-organisation when completing a project using agile values and principles. This is because experienced team members know their capabilities better than management staff. With the right level of autonomy, team members can even work better.

12. Reflect

The Agile Manifesto also leaves room for reflection. This is important to improve client satisfaction, quality, and to ensure speed. It allows a team, shareholder and client to give their opinions on what went well and what needs improving. A project manager can take these suggestions on and fine-tune the process for future tasks to promote a more successful experience.

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