Pocket-sized Principles

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15 minutes


  • Copies of the twelve principles of agile software (http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html)
  • White-boards and/or flip-charts
  • Markers

This is an exercise that we came up with to better communicate the twelve principles behind the Agile Manifesto. In their existing form, it is challenging for people to read and understand each principle and, just as importantly, to easily refer to them later.

  • Divide participants in to groups, each with a white-board or flip-chart and markers.
  • Have the teams write down the numbers 1 through 12.
  • Challenge each team to, within a 15 minute time-box, come up with three words maximum that effectively capture each of the twelve principles.
  • To avoid ‘analysis paralysis’, make sure to give the teams time updates throughout (e.g. 10, 5, 2, 1 minute warnings). You will find that teams will speed up towards the end.
  • When time is up, go through each principle and discuss which are the most important words. Sometimes I like to ask people what their most and least favorite principles are.
  • Post the condensed principles somewhere visible, so as to make it a regular talking point.

Here is an example:

  1. Produce Value Early
  2. Welcome Change
  3. Iterative Delivery
  4. Daily Business Collaboration
  5. Trust Motivated Team
  6. Face to Face
  7. Working Software
  8. Sustainable Pace
  9. Technical Excellence
  10. K.I.S.S.
  11. Self-Organize
  12. Reflect and Adjust

Learning Points:

  • This is an effective way of capturing each principle in a much more concise and memorable way.
  • Probably the most valuable part of this exercise, is in the discussion that the teams have when trying to come up with the words. They need to first understand the principle before breaking it down.
  • Teams can establish a collective understanding and ownership of each principle.
  • This also makes for a good review exercise in a classroom environment.
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6 Responses to "Pocket-sized Principles"
  • Derlon V. Aliendres May 4, 2011 at 8:58 am


    Achei muito interessante e prático não só este post, mas todo site|blog!!

    Fico contente em descobri um site assim que facilita e agiliza a nossa assimilassão do Agil. ;-) )

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  • Heitor Filho May 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Legal Verlon, ficamos contentes que voce gostou! Volte sempre!

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  • Declan Whelan October 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I have used this game three times and I have found it to be very effective.

    One challenge I find with it is consolidating the output from the multiple groups into a single list. I like having a single list as it is a simple, clear, artifact that can be left on the team wall.

    What I have found works well it to create another list with the 12 numbers on it. Then I got a volunteer scribe, usually asking the person who had the neatest writing from the original groups. Then I gather the team around and have them come up with a ‘final’ pocket-sized principle. Usually, an informal dialog was sufficient for someone to suggest something and for the team to agree. Sometimes, I make suggestions and have used the decider protocol if things are moving too slowly.

    This additional discussion provides another opportunity for the team to talk about the principle which is the most useful part. However, this add another 15 minutes or so for the activity.

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  • Olivier February 19, 2014 at 11:35 am

    This is one of the must have in my teaching session for scrum courses.
    I plan 20 more minutes for the debrief and the “condensed” version of the different teams.

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  • Silvana Wasitova October 4, 2014 at 1:42 am

    I too use this exercise when teaching the Scrum course: it’s a smooth way to help participants internalize the Agile principles.

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  • Peter February 25, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Recently did this but extended by requesting the teams come up with a bulleted list for each principle which describe Scrum Artefacts, Scrum Events, our Day-to-Day practices etc. that demonstrate the practice of that principle. This way our teams can see how the Scrum Events for example are related to the Agile Manifesto Principles.

    Worked well, although never gave enough time for the exercise and make the mistake of breaking the teams into groups of four which resulted in two rounds of consolidation when one would have been enough.

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