Values Advocacy is an exercise that introduces and drives a meaningful discussion about the four values in the agile manifesto. Although it is a good starting point for an introductory to the agile world, the exercise could be used also to roughly assess the readiness of the participants (and eventually of their organizations) to adopt agile. I have created it as part of my university exercises and already tried it out on different students – from novices to ones with some industrial experience in agile. It was perceived as useful and a lot of fun!
135 mins (but could be less). Each part of the exercise is strictly timeboxed.
Whiteboard, markers and a timer for timeboxing.
Introduce the four values from the agile manifesto (5 mins).
Split people into four teams. Each team should choose two agile values – one to defend and one to offend (5 mins).
- Team A: Defend value A, Offend value D.
- Team B: Defend value B, Offend value A.
- Team C: Defend value C, Offend value B.
- Team D: Defend value D, Offend value C.
Explain the rules of the exercise described below (5 mins).
Write value A on the top of the board. Let’s say it is the “Working software over comprehensive documentation”. Split the rest of the board into two parts. Name the left one “Working software” or “For Value A” and the right one “Comprehensive documentation” or “Against Value A”.
Team A and Team B are the advocates (defender and offender). Team C and Team D are the judges.
Part I (10 mins)
Team A (Defender of value A) – Should think of as much as possible positives to write on the left side of the board (“For Value A”) and as much as possible negatives to write on the right side of the board (“Against Value A”).
Team B (Offenders of value A) – Should think of as much as possible positives to write on the right side of the board (“Against Value A”) and as much as possible negatives to write on the left side of the board (“For Value A”).
Team C and Team D – Each team should have their own position regarding the value stated at the end of Part I (whether value A is “justifiable” or not). This should be written somewhere on the board.
Examples of positives about the values might be: potential benefits; success stories or hypothetical working examples; issues it might resolve; etc.
Negatives could be: possible side effects; constraints and limitations; contextual dependencies; etc.
Part II (15 mins)
Team A writes down its positives and negatives on the board (on the relevant side of it) and explains them. (5 mins)
Then Team B writes down its positives and negatives on the board (on the relevant side of it) and explains them. (5 mins)
Positives should be written in blue / black, while negatives should be written in red.
All members of Team C and Team D should vote and their votes should be averaged to form a group consensus (for Team C and Team D respectively). If the position of Team C or D is the same as it was stated in Part I, the relevant team (Team A or Team B) gains a point. If the position had changed, then the relevant team (Team A or Team B) gains two points. (5 mins)
ROUND II – IV
Repeat Round I for the rest of the values by switching teams accordingly.
Calculate the results by summing up the points gained by each team and announce the winners (5 mins)
- Introduces and drives a meaningful discussion about the four values in the agile manifesto.
- Emphasizes the importance of both, the left and the right side of the value statements (e.g. working software and comprehensive documentation) and that agile is actually caring for both of them.
- Alerts that agile values are not a silver bullet. They come at some cost and might not be applicable to any organization, project or team.
- Checks whether participants’ own beliefs (based on their own experience, knowledge, etc.) are aligned with the agile values. If the majority of the agile values were not justified, then this could be a basis for a discussion on the organizational readiness for adopting agile.
- Reinforces agile values. Participants are becoming advocates of the agile values (at least for a few of them).
- Emphasizes the use (and shows the benefit) of timeboxing.
- Emphasizes the importance of prioritizing decisions and actions (due to short timeframes).