The Core Principles that Drive Disciplined Agile

The Disciplined Agile tool kit is informed by core principles that guide individuals, teams, and enterprises as you evolve and optimize your Way of Working (WoW). Each principle informs how discipline is applied to build a solid foundation for business agility as you become more collaborative, adaptable, and ultimately more effective.

What does it mean to be disciplined? To be disciplined is to do the things that you know are good for you, things that usually require hard work and perseverance. It requires discipline to regularly delight your customers. It takes discipline for teams to become awesome. It requires discipline for leaders to ensure that their people have a safe environment to work in.

It takes discipline to recognize that you need to tailor your approach for the context that you face, and to evolve your approach as the situation evolves. It takes discipline to recognize that you are part of a larger organization, that you should do what’s best for the enterprise and not just what’s convenient for you. It requires discipline to evolve and optimize your overall workflow, and it requires discipline to realize that you have many choices regarding how you work and organize yourselves, so you should choose accordingly.

Graphic of the 8 Principles of Disciplined Agile

The Principles of the Disciplined Agile Mindset

  1. Delight Customers

    We need to go beyond satisfying our customers' needs, beyond meeting their expectations, and strive to delight them. If we don't then someone else will delight them and steal our customers away from us. This applies to both external customers as well as internal customers.

  2. Be Awesome

    We should always strive to be the best that we can, and to always get better. Who wouldn't want to work with awesome people, on an awesome team for an awesome organization?

  3. Context Counts

    Every person, every team, every organization is unique. We face unique situations that evolve over time. The implication is that we must choose our way of working (WoW) to reflect the context that we face, and then evolve our WoW as the situation evolves.

  4. Be Pragmatic

    Our aim isn't to be agile, it's to be as effective as we can be and to improve from there. To do this we need to be pragmatic and adopt agile, lean, or even traditional strategies when they make the most sense for our context.

  5. Choice is Good

    To choose our WoW in a context-driven, pragmatic manner we need to select the best-fit technique given our situation. Having choices, and knowing the trade-offs associated with those choices, is critical to choosing our WoW that is best fit for our context.

  6. Optimize Flow

    We want to optimize flow across the value stream that we are part of, and better yet across our organization, and not just locally optimize our WoW within our team. Sometimes this will be a bit inconvenient for us, but overall we will be able to more effectively respond to our customers.

  7. Organize Around Products/Services

    To delight our customers we need to organize ourselves around producing the offerings, the products and services, that they need. We are in effect organizing around value streams because value streams produce value for customers, both external and internal, in the form of products and services.  We chose to say organize around products/services, rather than offerings or value streams, as we felt this was more explicit.

  8. Enterprise Awareness

    Disciplined agilists look beyond the needs of their team to take the long-term needs of their organization into account.  They adopt, and sometimes tailor, organizational guidance.  They follow, and provide feedback too, organizational roadmaps.  The leverage, and sometimes enhance, existing organizational assets.  In short, they do what's best for the organization and not just what's convenient for them.


Related Reading

Agile Manifesto for Software Development
The foundation for agile software development

Principles of Lean Software Development
Some great foundational ideas from Mary and Tom Poppendieck

Principles for Effective Software Frameworks
Our earlier thinking on this subject