Unbiased Agile

Craig Cockburn
3 min readMay 23, 2022


For healthier organisational outcomes
: Because we value effective, sustainable, engaged people and organisations. With reference to Patrick Lencioni, “The Advantage” — Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.

Simple summary: Focus on Culture, Engagement, Flow, Quality and Value through Collaborating, Delivering, Reflecting and Improving. Optimise feedback. Put people first through organisational health

Problem statement: I see from agile surveys, experience talking to other coaches and information from talks that I go to that agile adoption keeps running into obstacles. These issues of culture and leadership remain problems years after they were first documented. I highlighted some in an article a few years ago.

There is also a pattern of organisations defaulting to well marketed, popular frameworks and tools by default without stopping first to think what they want from agile, what frameworks are most suitable, what adjustments need to be made and what tooling can support this. This isn’t helped by big consultancies favouring a framework led approach from a very limited choice of frameworks rather than adopting a culture led approach with people at the centre. People and Collaboration over Frameworks and Processes!

The other problem with frameworks is that they often assume you have validated which framework to use and are up and running with the framework already — typically they describe the static state with the framework in place and people trained. The earlier stages around the pre-framework set up, the more transformational activities around organisational complexity, the assessment of needs and what framework (if any) might be best is often absent.

Principles before frameworks

To try and reduce premature anchoring bias around well marketed agile frameworks, I’m summarising a few principles here backed up by further data, reading, references and practices in a framework neutral way focussed around people, process and data. Ivar Jacobson states practices as the “first-class citizens” of software development and views method (or process) simply as a composition of practices. It is practices in line with principles that can embed a “mindset” or attitude shift, rather than just commanding people to “be agile” and “adopt an agile mindset”.

The principles are intended to be text-light and reference heavy so you can explore further. Many people write books that are thousands of words with a few references that sit unread. This is a concise wrapper to references and other peoples’ work, with just enough to bring it together in the hope that you read most of it. One of the reasons the agile manifesto worked was that it was concise. However, this isn’t a manifesto.

The Principles

The principles are now available at Unbiased Agile Principles (I will host a copy on https://www.unbiasedagile.com in due course). There’s no explicit order for the principles except refer to the ordering in wardley doctrine as a guide. This list is an adapted cut down version with source references and examples relevant for agile transformations.

If you’ve seen the popular video by Simon Sinek “Start with why” (approx 58 million views), here’s how this approach relates to his golden circle of Why, How, What — I have added Who to this as I believe we it’s better to start with people.

Who — Who is leading? Consultancies or thoughtful leaders? Collaborative communities or framework factories? Are there enough leaders who really know what to do and how to lead a transformative culture?

Why — why do this? To address premature anchoring bias around the apex predators in Agile

How — the principles of unbiased agile around people, process and data.

What — the supporting descriptions for each principle with references and sources to show this isn’t just many opinion — it’s based on the works of leading others in effective leadership and agile thinking.

Some early thinking in this popular post I put on LinkedIn, (over 10,000 views) led me to believe that drawing on the wisdom of others and bringing it together in a clear and simple way has value.

And of course thank you to all the leading people in agile who continue to uncover better ways to collaborate. I invite comments on this content and approach, we continue to learn through effective feedback loops (see note above on values!)



Craig Cockburn

Freelance IT Professional, Lean Agile Coach. Wrote UK's first guide to getting online. Non Exec Director. From Dunblane, Perthshire. www.craigcockburn.com