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Lean Agile: The Ethical Choice

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.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.3 (13 ratings)
Deepak Joshi
Agility is a mantra today which gives satisfaction to the stakeholders to review the shippable increment time to time. The good news is that more and more people are embracing agility. The ugly part is that people are often not examining that the domain in which they are currently, is suitable for agile practices or not. The agile newbies are at-times not understanding the principles and values of Agile and thus creating awkward situations.
Thus it is very important to understand the agile principles and code of ethics.

Really nice and inspiring article.
10/7/2014 6:33:12 AM

Che Fisher
I think the relationship between the definition of ethics suddenly jmpuing to "... our moral obligation as software developers is to provide value to our customers" isn't justified. That's not to say it's wrong - in fact I whole heartedly agree - but it would be great to see this relationship expanded upon. Are you referring to a an ethics based on utility (utilitarianism) or drawing on a notion of sufficient reason (Kantian ethics)? How are we, as developers (and not necessarily philosophers or ethicists) able to make ethical decisions within a Lean or Agile framework?
5/10/2016 7:54:25 AM
Thanks Michele. You are awesome blogger! Keep working!
8/4/2016 4:29:25 AM

Great post. Thank you
8/26/2016 10:33:01 PM

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