Courage is not an agile thing

A U.S. Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Maritime Raid Force conducts double bag static line parachute operations from a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352 over Djibouti Aug. 10, 2013. Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (DoD photo by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

When I first embraced extreme programming (XP) there was much to be excited about, but I always felt it was odd that one of its values was “courage”. And even while I’ve worked with XP and all other manner of agile practices over the years, I’ve never really believed courage is a particularly XP or agile value.

To be sure, official literature is against me. lists it as one of five XP values:

We will tell the truth about progress and estimates. […] We don’t fear anything because no one ever works alone.

The Scrum Alliance site also lists it as a Scrum value:

Because we work as a team, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.

The messages are similar: Teamwork enables the courage, and courage enables more effective working. Elsewhere on the Scrum Alliance site, consultant and coach Narasimhan Anantharangachar cites courage as something teams need in order to change (rather than it being enabled as a consequence of other activities).

This is good, but is it really a particularly agile, Scrum or XP value? If you’re going through any significant change then certainly courage will help greatly. But that is a part of any change process, not an agile one. If you have a healthy workplace, with good team dynamics, then that will provide people with more courage… and more effective operations will ensue. But again, that’s not specific to agile.

On the Harvard Business Review blog, Rosabeth Moss Kanter makes a call for courage in the executive team:

To act requires courage. To innovate requires even more courage. Today, courage seems in short supply. What are leaders waiting for? Without bold action and innovation, how can troubled economies escape decline?

That piece has nothing to do with agile. We all need courage to do what is right, and the benefits will be significant. Courage is not an agile thing. It’s an everyone thing.

Photo by U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos

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