Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Values, Principles and Practices

When I was creating this blog, I wanted to make sure I had a tag line that accurately reflected what the focus and goals of this blog were to be. Here's what I came up with:

A manager's quest to improve his organization through Lean and Agile development values, principles and practices.

Technoetic had a post awhile back that I found to be a great representation of the overall goals - values, principles and practices. While some use these terms somewhat interchangably, I truly believed that each of them represented a particular piece of the whole. The author of this post apparently agreed with me and came up with perfect definitions of each of the parts. Here they are:

Values - A description of preference between alternatives. Often the alternatives represent candidate courses of action and the value guides the selection among the alternatives. Sometimes values are basically axioms. They can be irrational in the sense that we might not be able to explain them intellectually or they might be primarily based on emotions.

Principles - Statements describing a model. A scientific principle is a statement describing an aspect of physical reality. Principles might also describe a model of social activity, for example. Principles can be fundamental or logically derived from fundamental principles. It’s commonly believed that principles are derived from values, but sometimes people have certain values because of specific principles. For example, the “value” of communication can be derived from the principle that communication improves cooperation and coordination effectiveness. This circularity between values and principles can be confusing at times.

Practices - A pattern of activity that can be repeated to achieve goals within a context. A person defining a practice is applying principles within a framework of their values (preferences). A related collection of practices might be called a process or methodology.

To make it even simpler, I could summarize the difference between these as:

Values are the feelings of what the right things are for us to do.

Principles are the guidelines of how we are to demonstrate those values.

Practices are the actions of what we do to support those principles.

As I write future posts, I will refer to these terms frequently to describe the parts of both Lean and Agile. Before I went there, I thought it would be good for us to have the same context going forward.

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