Unbiased Agile Principles

Craig Cockburn
3 min readMay 23, 2022

for healthier organisational outcomes

moving eventually to https://www.unbiasedagile.com

Because we value effective, sustainable, engaged people and organisations.

Introduction and context to unbiased agile

Note: These principles will be underpinned by further detail and references.


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

  1. Start with who then why. Who are your customers? Are your leaders effective? Are they leaders? Why does your organisation exist? What’s the problem you want to solve? Is it the right problem? Ensure purpose and mission don’t stifle variety and innovation.
  2. Leaders go first: Effective Leadership is essential for a successful transformation, it’s not just about the 1st level teams. Compassionate, human, transparent, accountable, trustworthy leaders that articulate common purpose and values. Lead the culture change by example. Be a role model if you expect people to want to follow you. Be the change you wish to see.
  3. Honesty and clarity Uncover the organisational lies you tell yourselves to enable honest collaboration, challenge assumptions, grow psychological safety and create coherence. Use minimal jargon, establish a common vocabulary if needed. Keep messages clear and simple.
  4. Stop Self Destruction: Find the self-destructive activities and contain them quickly. These will cause more problems and damage if left unattended. Remove duplication. Bring together people with authority to enable rapid decision making to deal with both.
  5. Map Constraints: Understand the constraints of the system. Create constraints where necessary to establish order. Understand what constraints are able to be modified for favourable outcomes and use the changing of constraints to enable change.
  6. Outcome Led: Think long term: future customer needs and the future organisation required. Don’t over focus on yesterday’s problems. Balance optionality and optimisation. This is a journey not a destination; your goal sets the direction. Have a believable strategy.
  7. Support everyone: Give people the skills, training, support, structures, environment and tools to do their jobs in the way they believe works best for them. Invite over inflict. Encourage and support. Help remove impediments. Slow down to speed up. Respect people and how they prefer to work, provide clarity of roles and support time and space to think.
  8. Bias towards open data: Seek to flatten the distribution of information so everyone sees the same data at the same time. Aim to widen information silos first, then widen knowledge silos. Changing people is important, but changing processes and interactions is more important as that’s how communities form. Create self-sustaining knowledge communities.
  9. Scale problem solving: Detecting antipatterns and problems should be distributed rather than centralised. Use this capability fully. Detect, prioritise and resolve problems early.
  10. Optimise flow. Organisational complexity, systems and processes, technical debt slow you down. Understand the important system feedback loops and reduce the feedback time through eliminating waste. Just focussing on delivery of product out the door isn’t enough, the culture and system of work in the whole organisation needs to be reflected on.
  11. Use valuable metrics not vanity stats: Default to empirical, validated data where feasible.
    1) Customer feedback and employee feedback.
    2) Flow metrics: Item Age, Flow Velocity, Cycle time, Flow Load (WIP).
    3) Organisational complexity, Lead time, Flow Distribution.
  12. Whole Organisation Thinking: Employ critical thinking and psychological safety to make good decisions, faster. Rapid, effective and safe decision making should be supported at all levels. Embrace everyone’s talent, good ideas can come from anywhere.



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