Adopting Agile? Don't Say It's Common Sense

In my courses, I use various activities to examine and drive home agile’s many principles. Ones that usually trigger deep conversations include getting to “done,” feedback, collaboration, and effectiveness before efficiency. Many senior managers attend my courses, and almost every time, one of them will ask: “Aren’t these principles just a common-sense way to work?”

I often hear the sentiment applied to popular agile practices, too. For instance, doesn’t it make sense to demo finished work to stakeholders? Meet your teammates every day for micro-planning? Capture work items from the perspective of the customer and process them in descending order of value?

If all this is indeed common sense, why has much of the world of work—at least the work of software development—operated differently in the last several decades? In fact, why hasn’t the new “sensible” approach displaced the previous approach completely?

Why common sense is not so common
The answer has to do with our value systems. Do you know the saying attributed to Voltaire, “Common sense is not so common”? There’s truth to it, and the truth is that what passes for right or sensible is not absolute; it’s derived from what we value—what’s important to us.

Why do some people (agile practitioners) base their…

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