Agileana manifesto and digital playbook

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Mindset Shifts for organization transformation by Aaron Sachs and Anapam Kundu, Thoughtworks
Mindset Shifts for organization transformation by Aaron Sachs and Anapam Kundu, Thoughtworks

We are a lean, agile, fully remote information technology services provider operating out of the Washington DC suburban area. In order to operative effectively, we have defined these core principles, which we consider our manifesto. If you are thinking about working with Agileana - either as an employee or a client - we would encourage you to read this manifesto, give us your feedback, and hopefully align with it.

Think Lean

We strive to not waste time or money. As a lean company, we do not carry large overhead, pay for fancy buildings or expensive perks, or hire a large administrative staff. Particularly in a small company like Agileana, everybody needs to wear different hats and play different roles at various times. This means that everybody needs to take personal responsibility, tie up their own loose ends, avoid creating technical or administrative debt, pay attention to detail, and carry their own weight. In a lean company like ours, there can be no slacking or goofing off, at least not for an extended period of time.

Time is an especially scarce, valuable, non-renewable resource and should therefore should not be wasted. Because time is valuable, it is important to prioritize everything we do and always focus on the single most important thing at any given time. Clients generally pay us by the hour, so we need to ensure that we are excellent stewards of the taxpayer dollars and donor funds entrusted to us by being efficient and effective with our time. We need to slow down, be careful, and avoid making mistakes that will cause us to unnecessarily spend time fixing or resolving what should have been done right in the first place. We need to have a clear purpose and agenda for our meetings then invite only those people necessary for the meetings. If written communications are not producing results or creating confusion, hop on a call and get to the bottom of it. Do not waste time.

Think Agile

Agile software development was born out of information technology and software failure that happened over and over again, until a few like-minded people decided to take action. A huge chasm existed - between people who pay for software and those who engineer software - in their expectations, assumptions, and paradigms. Frustrated with this repeated failure, agile founders developed and documented the fundamentals of agile software development, which we can actually apply to almost everything in our lives. Agile principles include:

  • Focus on a distinct purpose - be purpose driven
  • Prioritize our work - focus on the one thing that is most important
  • Be transparent - share progress and challenges then listen for feedback
  • Embrace knowledge, insight, and change to develop something better
  • Work in time-boxed increments, minimize work in progress, avoid multi-tasking
  • Stop periodically to reflect, improve, and reprioritize as needed

Mindset Shifts for Organization Transformation

Thanks to Aaron Sachs and Anupam Kundu, Thoughtworks


Be Trusting and Trustful

Especially for a fully remote company like Agileana, we have to have mutual trust and good faith. We trust that employees and team members are working when they are supposed to be working and will reach out to their team members when they run into problems. Likewise, employees and team members need to trust that Agileana cares about them, has their best interest at heart, and will support them in whatever ways we can. We will only thrive if we thrive together and work our hardest to support each other in every way. In the same way, clients need to trust that we are making best use of time and money and that we have their best interests in mind. Our clients' mission is our mission.

When you need time off, then take time off. Please just coordinate 360 degrees and give your team mates enough time and support to hold down the fort while you are out. On the other hand, sometimes work needs to be done outside of normal business hours. If you need to work, then we ask you to work. As long as we are working with trust, transparency, and in good faith then we should all be able to thrive together. More information on our leave policy can be found here.

Avoid the Drama

We simply do not have time or patience for drama. We have fun, joke around, and are sometimes inappropriate. But, for the most part, we expect everybody to be professional, do their work, and get the job done with no excuses. No loose ends, minimal technical and administrative debt, get it done on time and on budget.

Seek Great Clients

Life is too short to deal with mismatched partnerships. So, we have established a Great Client Criteria and strive to work exclusively with Great Clients who share these common traits:

  1. Friendly and understanding - mistakes will happen, things will go wrong, some things cannot be explained. We need clients who are friendly and understanding when stuff happens.
  2. Tech savvy - ancient Persian proverb, "you can't reason with a dog." We need clients who can understand what's going on and be part of the solution.
  3. Realistic budget - quality carries a price tag, as do reliable professionals, qualified professionals, documentation, accessibility, and security. We don't like to cut corners and need adequate budgets to do things right.
  4. Pay on time - we have bills that come every month that include salaries, rent, mortgages, electricity, software as a service, and internet connection. We need clients who pay on time so we can operate.

Clients need to meet at least 3 of these 4 criteria, or else they can't be our clients.

Seek Great Employees

We talk daily and, in some cases, spend more time with each other than we spend with members of our family. So, we need to ensure that people who come on board can fit into our culture and hit the ground running. This is what we seek in potential team members:

  • Honest, truthful, transparent
  • Responsible, reliable, professional
  • Sense of humor, open mind, not easily offended, emotionally mature and intelligent
  • Tech'ed up with a full-functioning remote office
  • Attention to detail, attention to quality
  • Ability to focus, eliminate distractions, get things done
  • Committed, dedicated, determined
  • Competent

Follow the 7 Habits

We are big fans of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which actually aligns well with agile principles:

  1. Be proactive - take initiative, be a self-starter, don't wait to be told
  2. Begin with the end in mind - then plan backwards, "Life by Design"
  3. Put first things first - prioritize, focus on that MVP
  4. Think win-win - partnerships breed success, everybody needs to come out better
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood - empathy, user centered design (UCD)
  6. Synergize - work together, be in sync, produce exponential results
  7. Sharpen the saw - continue to learn, seek self-improvements, new certifications

Apply the USDS Digital Playbook

We are also fans of the U.S. Digital Services agency playbook, namely:

  1. Understand what people need - practice empathy, user centered design (UCD)
  2. Address the whole experience, from start to finish - begin with the end in mind
  3. Make it simple and intuitive - Don't make me think by Steve Krug
  4. Build the service using agile and iterative processes - think Agile
  5. Structure budgets and contracts to support delivery - agile contracts
  6. Assign one leader and hold that person accountable - ultimately, the agile project manager
  7. Bring in experienced teams - individuals who have worked together before, Drupal Grandmasters
  8. Choose a modern technology stack - JS frameworks, open APIs, headless, decoupled
  9. Deploy in a flexible hosting environment - cloud, AWS, Pantheon, Docker
  10. Automate testing and deployments - DevOps, CI/CD
  11. Manage security and privacy through reusable processes - object oriented, web services
  12. Use data to drive decisions - science matters, decision science
  13. Default to open - open source, open government, open data, open APIs