My Personal Agile: Value

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

I’ve been talking to a few people about my personal use of Agile (specifically Scrum) to be productive.  So let’s get to the next step: thinking about work.

It may seem strange to say your first step is thinking different – it sounds kinda fuzzy doesn’t it? But it’s it’s a core part of Agile methods, and a core part of doing better. How you think about work affects how you do it – or if you do it. Agile is not just some techniques or some airy philosophy – it’s a mindset.

First up is learning to think about value.


Value is something talked about in Agile a lot. The first Agile Principle is:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Substitute software for, well, anything. Substitute customer for whoever your target audience is – including yourself. Your goal in doing anything is to do something of value for someone.

If there’s no value, well the eight Agile Principle states

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

So if something isn’t worth it why do it? Exactly – don’t.

If there’s no one to do it for, don’t do it.

But, that means you have to learn to think about the value of work you do.  I’ll cover more of that in the next section when we look at breaking down work.

EXERCISE: List the top five things you want to get done in ife. Write down in order which is the most important to the least – and no item can be of equal importance to any other (this is force-ranking). What do you learn doing this?

EXERCISE 2: What was the last thing in life that you did that really didn’t need to be done. Why did you do it? How much time would you have saved not doing it?

Value And My Personal Agile

So why is value so . . . valuable? I mean you can guess, but let’s peek behind the curtain.

  • Thinking about value tells you why something should be done – and you can figure out if it’s worth doing.
  • Thinking about value tells you how important something is – and how you should prioritize it. Good productivity – and Agile especially – requires you to know what’s important to do. That helps you organize.
  • Thinking about value tells you who wants it – and that’s the person you want to talk to for guidance and feedback.

The first part of work is knowing why you’re doing it – or why you shouldn’t.

I hope that helps you think about work better. Because next step we’re going to talk about how you break work down – and find its value.

– Steve