The Agile Principles These Companies Live by — and Why

Industry, team size, customer base and a number of other variables play a role in determining which Agile principles make the most sense for your team to employ.
Built In Staff
January 10, 2020
Updated: May 28, 2020
Built In Staff
January 10, 2020
Updated: May 28, 2020

The Agile Manifesto, which lays out 12 principles for agile software development, was written in 2001, a time when many people were still using dial-up internet. While these principles still influence how engineering teams work today, many companies have tweaked them to fit modern technology. 

Industry, team size, customer base and a number of other variables play a role in determining which Agile principles make the most sense for your team to employ — and it’s OK if some of them just don't resonate at all. In our interviews with team leads, they stressed the importance of giving teams the agency to do their best work and encouraging constant communication across departments. Here are the Agile principles that are hits (and misses) for these tech teams:

The 12 Agile Principles

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
current
current

Current

Vice President of Product Josh Stephens says face-to-face communication is irreplaceable at Current.

 

The Agile Manifesto lists 12 agile principles. Of these 12, which ones are most important to your team and why?

A major benefit of having our whole team here in NYC has been the opportunity to discuss challenges and find solutions in person. The sixth principle encourages face-to-face communication for more effective development. The opportunity to turn around our chairs and quickly solve a problem in person has been critical to our ability to release features with speed and precision.

 

"With face-to-face communication, we can discuss challenges and find solutions in person.

 

Which Agile principles does your team ignore, and why?

It’s not that we ignore any elements of Agile development completely, but as a small team it’s our responsibility to continuously adapt our development principles and habits to fit our specific needs.

The second Agile principle, which calls for welcoming changing requirements, is something we take with a grain a salt. Although we constantly change features while in design, we do our best to restrict changing scope for anything that has already started development. This increases our speed of development and prevents features from slipping.

Milyli team working
Milyli

Milyli

Director of Product Development Tim Randall said team members at Milyli value the level of agency that’s baked into the Agile Manifesto. 

The company’s name actually stands for “make it like you like”. Randall said small development teams employ critical thinking and ownership to build the e-discovery software. 

 

Of the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto, which ones are important to your team and why?

I’ve always felt the most crucial principle in the Agile Manifesto is building projects around motivated individuals and giving them the tools and space they need to be successful. We often struggle to figure out the day-to-day processes from source control to ceremony. However, our team really enjoys these critical-thinking challenges of Agile.

We also use the phrase “everyone is an engineer” as a guiding principle. This idea empowers each team member to make decisions and promotes a self-starting, problem-solving culture. Each of us is responsible for the success of our projects and knows it, whether it’s a junior dev picking up a UI test or a test engineer tackling a feature bug.

 

Which principles does your team intentionally overlook, and why?

We do not technically practice the principle “the best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” This is because our team is lean, so it’s rare that we are not all working on the same central challenges together.

That said, we also live up to our company acronym and have found ways of practicing a variation of this principle. Whenever someone needs more time to solve a problem subset, we break out into smaller, self-organized duos and trios to address those issues as “micro-groups” within the larger team.

 

ripl
ripl

Ripl

The Agile Manifesto lists 12 agile principles. That’s a lot. Of these 12, which ones are most important to your team and why?

I don’t think any one of the principles is most important because they all really build upon each other. However, one that I think can provide some of the most underestimated rewards is “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Doing this well has a great capacity for strengthening your self-awareness and your sense for how your team is working together. It enables you to better understand what you are doing and how it is impacting you, your team and your customers. 

Moreover, it means frequent and deliberate opportunities to share those insights together and use them to improve how you do what you do and experiment with what will unlock even more potential. Many recognize this pattern in the various forms of retrospectives that we do but I think this mindset is elevated when you start to recognize how this approach can play a part in your daily routines and interactions.

 

"I see so many more successes and deeper shared learning when people frequently take time to talk with each other.”

 

Which agile principles does your team ignore, and why?

We recognize the value in all of the principles, but we sometimes lose focus on some amid our ambitions to work on things. One that is sometimes easy to forget is “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.” 

It is easy to slip into a mode where you lean on purely digital or written communications or not communicating at all because you are confident, smart and independent. Yet I see so many more successes and deeper shared learning when people frequently take time to talk with each other. This can take many forms like asking for help, sharing what you learned, showing what you accomplished or simply talking about how you are feeling.

 

dashlane
dashlane

Dashlane

Veer Patel, project manager at Dashlane, considers the Agile principles as an overall mindset instead of something more permanent, like rules.  

 

The Agile Manifesto lists 12 agile principles. Of these 12, which ones are most important to your team and why?

Every Agile principle is a great one, but if I had to prioritize, I'd select “welcoming change and working together.” Change is how we grow, but sometimes people are cautious of change, so you can counterbalance it by taking subtle steps. Sometimes change is external, and you need to be reactive and focus on the people who are being affected.

Ultimately, my role is to align the right people in the room and make sure everyone is motivated to solve the problem at hand. It’s important to collaborate with the people that contribute to a good environment — colleagues that have technical knowledge, a user’s perspective and positive intent. When you have these three elements together, everything falls into place.

 

"My role is to align the right people in the room and make sure everyone is motivated to solve the problem.

 

Which Agile principles does your team ignore, and why?

All of the Agile principles are key components to being successful — it's a mindset of how you think and operate. I wouldn't say we choose to ignore some, but we're cautious that they can be taken to an extreme. 

The principle that comes to mind is the measure of progress. If you're not careful, this can go to a place where it's negatively impacting the team. Having too many deadlines can pressure teams to only focus on roadblocks. What we need to do is focus on the overarching solution. If you don't focus on the best solution, your software may work, but you've only created a bandage.

As a chief architect, you have to be able to juggle priorities: making sure developers are productive, ensuring your software works and meets business needs and advising various stakeholders within the company, including the CEO, CTO, CFO and your team of software developers. 

The chief architect helps articulate the feasibility of a project and formulates a plan to get the project across the finish line. When visions between stakeholders get blurry, it’s often the responsibility of the chief architect to solve complex technical problems so that all parties are satisfied with the end result.

In a role that works with so many parties across the business, process and organization are imperative. That’s why some chief architects turn to the 12 Agile principles, a framework designed to support teams in implementing and executing software development with efficiency and technical excellence.

For David Redenbaugh, chief architect at Ripl, utilizing the principles comprehensively is important because they “all really build upon each other.”

However, most IT professionals have one or two Agile principles they hold to a higher power. Even Redenbaugh. At Ripl, he is responsible for the IT infrastructure that allows small businesses to make marketing tools on the same level as large businesses with bigger advertising budgets. We spoke with him about which principle is most important to his team — and which principle doesn’t get as much attention. 

 

reonomy
reonomy

Reonomy

Vice President of Engineering Bhaskar Maddala considers all the Agile principles to be important. Here's which principles he implements to ensure Reonomy  “goes beyond just delivering software.”

 

The Agile Manifesto lists 12 Agile principles. Of these 12, which ones are most important to your team and why?

Customer satisfaction is the most important principle on Reonomy's team.  The Agile Manifesto states, “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” What differentiates Reonomy's approach to achieving customer satisfaction from other tech companies is that we make it a point to go beyond just delivering software.

We capture customer satisfaction by delivering valuable software. Our engineers deliver software by speaking with customers directly. Reonomy's engineers engage with customers by helping them utilize our software and API. This benefits both our customers and our engineers by allowing them to fully understand use cases, develop customer empathy and deliver quality software in a timely fashion.

 

"We strongly believe technical excellence is driven by customer feedback.

 

Which Agile principles does your team ignore, and why?

We don't outrightly ignore any of the principles. Instead we interpret them in the context of a fast-paced startup environment. 

The Agile Manifesto says, “continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.” We combine that principle with a need for early customer feedback. Working in a startup environment, customer feedback is at the crux of how we continue to deliver technical excellence. Our team of engineers is extraordinarily talented, but we're all humble enough to put working software in front of our customers and sacrifice technical excellence in order to seek customer feedback and guidance. 

This is a common pattern we practice in order to achieve new product discovery. We strongly believe technical excellence is driven by customer feedback. In turn, customer feedback allows the team to revisit implementation details while enabling agility, which cannot be divorced from customer outcomes.

 

leaflink
leaflink

Leaflink

Vice President of Engineering Mark Sost agrees with the Agile principles when it comes to prioritizing the customer. He said Lealink's sprints and quarterly planning are tailored around customer feedback. 

 

The Agile Manifesto lists 12 agile principles. Of these 12, which ones are most important to your team and why?

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” This may be one of the only principles that we believe in without any caveats. Product iteration and customer satisfaction are at the core of everything we do as an organization. We’re constantly soliciting feedback, holding working sessions and generally trying our best to understand and fulfill the needs of our users. We specifically tailor our sprints and quarterly planning around what we’re hearing from them. We’ve also structured our teams to be nimble enough to react to changes in the market, meaning that we can change course if we see we’re heading down a path that no longer leads to maximum customer value. 

Another principle is “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.” In all software development, there are inevitably times where you need to push harder than normal to deliver something that’s impactful and matters to your customers and to the business. What’s more important, however, is recognizing that those times need to be balanced with a return to a pace that can be sustained long-term. That’s one of the reasons we’ve made this concept a part of our company’s core values. We want to make sure our teammates know that what we’re doing is challenging and that we push ourselves to achieve it, but only to a certain, non-breaking point. 

 

"We’ve structured our teams to be nimble enough to react to changes in the market.

 

Which Agile principles does your team ignore, and why?

We don’t particularly agree with “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”

In an ideal world or a smaller team environment, this principle makes sense — you want those closest to the customer providing insight and feedback to ensure you’re delivering the best product. However, as teams and companies grow, daily interaction becomes challenging and even prohibitive to progress. We find that incorporating business stakeholder involvement into the research and design phase of a project helps start the team off in the right direction. Maintaining consistent, albeit not daily, touchpoints throughout the project leads to better results without slowing innovation and delivery to customers.

 

Gtreasury team in group photo
GTreasury

GTreasury

Creating working software and communication are key for developers at fintech company GTreasury, according to VP of Architecture Chih-Wei Tsai. While satisfying the customer is objective No. 1, Tsai said that’s made possible through gradual software delivery, supported by knowledge-sharing throughout the development process. 

 

Of the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto, which ones are important to your team and why?

The seventh principle – which states that working software is the primary measure of progress – is particularly important to us. In order to continually provide our treasury management system for our customers, this seventh principle ensures that we’re always focused on delivering software solutions that do their job. 

We see this principle at work when we extend the core values of Agile to prioritize building working software over comprehensive documentation; we iterate through Agile processes in order to produce working software incrementally. In our view, adhering to this principle keeps us aligned in providing business value for our customers, which is our primary measure of success.

 

"We iterate through Agile processes in order to produce working software incrementally.”

 

Which principles does your team intentionally overlook, and why?

I find that principle No. 11 — that the best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams — is the one that’s arguably the easiest to overlook.

The challenge with this principle is ensuring team members aren’t working in silos and are able to seamlessly push toward common goals. This includes working collaboratively by sharing ideas from the story refinement process through the delivery of high-quality software. It’s also very important that self-organizing teams have cross-functional interactions, which is sometimes easier said than done. 

To successfully apply this principle, team members must always be empowered to make decisions, take ownership and be responsive with other team members. While it shouldn’t be ignored, this is one of the more challenging Agile principles to put into consistent practice, in my opinion.

 

Lumere team group photo
lumere

Lumere

Lumere’s Director of Product Management Katie Moll said developers are given independence to tackle projects in an environment that promotes agency via direct support from leadership. This is important when the requirements of an assignment change.

 

Of the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto, which ones are important to your team and why?

The principle “build projects around motivated individuals” holds great importance to us and influences how we prioritize the initiatives we tackle. We provide an environment where everyone has the opportunity to do their best work, and leadership prides itself on giving teams the support and trust they need to get the job done. Working with people that have a positive, encouraging attitude is contagious and sets us on a path to making successful software deliveries.

 

"When our data visualization team is working with a new data set, they embrace changing requirements as they iterate on that data.”

 

Which principles does your team intentionally overlook, and why?

Some principles must take center-stage over others. For example, when we are formulating a new feature idea, we want to quickly get the team talking face-to-face to align on the value of addressing the business needs. When our data visualization team is working with a new data set, they embrace changing requirements as they iterate on that data.

In these instances, the principles of “welcome changing requirements” and “face-to-face conversations” take precedence over others.

 

Neighborhoods.com team in group photo
Neighborhoods.com

Neighborhoods.com

Software Engineer Noah Leapai said getting staff on the same page is an important part of the development cycle at Neighborhoods.com. Team members are trained on how to maximize the effectiveness of their communications with colleagues, which sometimes cannot occur in-person. 

 

Of the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto, which ones are important to your team and why?

The most important principles to our team are the following: “business people and developers must work together,” “working software is the primary measure of progress” and “at regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective.”

These three principles give us the communication and relationships necessary to better understand our work. They also provide the metric by which we can measure the effectiveness of that communication and a process that allows us to continuously reflect and improve our organization. They have been powerful tools in helping us shape our team and are at the heart of our progress and success as a company. 

 

Which principles does your team intentionally overlook, and why?

While we agree with the statement, “the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation,” it’s not always possible for us due to busy schedules, timeline constraints or any number of other factors. 

Because of this, we’ve focused on establishing a culture of constructive peer review. We also get the most out of our asynchronous communication through coaching teams on how to extract and provide the most meaningful information in ways that are easily understood by all parties involved.

 

SPINS team in group photo
spins

SPINS

Perteet Spencer, VP of consumer packaged goods and enterprise sales, discussed why devs at SPINS take the Agile principles surrounding communication seriously. Spencer said team members practice gathering and giving feedback in efforts to improve the product and their processes for building it.

 

Of the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto, which ones are important to your team and why?

 

“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.”

 

We pride ourselves on being entrepreneurial. The vibe in the office is that of a startup, embracing change and allowing for individual decision-making and reduced red tape. 

The second principle, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly” resonates with us. We believe the way we work is just as important as the products we create. 

To keep us aligned, we regularly check in with our teams from the top down to consider ways we can improve. We do this through our CEO’s monthly small-group breakfast chats, our twice-a-year performance feedback program and the quarterly all-hands meetings. Being collaborative and direct facilitates the ongoing sharing of candid, solutions-based feedback.

payfone
payfone

Payfone

The Agile Manifesto lists 12 agile principles. That’s a lot. Of these 12, which ones are most important to your team and why?

The most important Agile principles to me are No. 1 and No. 7. Having a constant focus on what functionality of yours the client is using is totally critical to avoid wasted effort. Often, although your software may have 20 different features, only one or two of them is critical to your clients’ success. This is especially true for Payfone’s business. 

Principle No. 7 is closely tied to this objective, as moving from working state from working state in your software allows you to clearly understand what impacts your feature development will have on your clients and allow for rapid improvement of the most critical features.

 

"Once requirements and priorities are set for a particular sprint, we try our hardest not to change them.’’

 

Which Agile principles does your team ignore, and why?

Although I agree in concept with principle No. 2, it can often be used as an excuse for not making clear decisions. Mistakes happen and requirements are wrong. But we always strive to be as precise as possible on the first go-around. Once requirements and priorities are set for a particular sprint, we try our hardest not to change them. This gives the team consistency and prevents scope creep. It also allows us to hold each other accountable for completing our commitments.

To me, the key benefit of Agile is being able to commit to a certain small set of enhancements for a short time period of time while maintaining the flexibility to change priorities between sprints. 

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