Lean Agile: The Ethical Choice

27 June 2014


Why use Lean and Agile methods? Because it is the most ethical choice. This is not to say that other methods are unethical, nor is it to say that all lean agile teams are working ethically. Instead this ethical choice is about embracing a method that is value-driven—both in the promise of providing value to the customers and in the promise of the ways we choose to work together to provide that value.
 
The Merriam-Webster definition of ethics is “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad, and with moral duty and obligation.” If we examine our moral obligation as software developers, our #1 task is to provide value to our customers. That is why we were hired, that is what the customers are paying for. We have a responsibility to deliver.  Lean and Agile approaches provide frameworks that enable frequent delivery of precisely what the customer needs, with as little waste as possible.
 
While we are obligated as professionals to provide a valued product to our customers, it should not be at the expense of those doing the work (or those supporting the people doing the work). This is our second obligation: to treat each other humanely. If we do not create and maintain an environment that allows the team to do challenging and fulfilling work, at a sustainable pace, then we are failing to treat these knowledge workers with respect. This also affects duty #1, in that an overworked demoralized team may not be able to give their best effort at creating a valued and quality product. The key principle of respect in Lean and the Agile Manifesto and its twelve principles both outline values that drive behavior in a positive and sustainable fashion. And this being a post on the Scrum Alliance site, I would be remiss if I didn't also point out the Scrum values of Openness, Focus, Commitment, Courage, and Respect, and the Scrum Alliance Code of Ethics.
 
Adhering to a set of values that drive continuous improvement, positive collaborative behaviors, and result in frequent software delivery helps us to work in an ethical manner. If implemented correctly, Lean and Agile are the most obvious ethical choices for any business.

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