“Over’s” Usefulness in Decision Making

The Agile Manifesto was written in a very deliberate style, for example, “Individuals and interactions over process and tools.” The word “over” was carefully chosen and establishes a key agile principle that many things in our world are too complex for black or white answers so we need to differentiate between what is critical and what is important.

To continue with our example, it’s not that process and tools are unimportant—there are a myriad of tools that increase the productivity of agile teams—but that in the final analysis, people are more important. Think of it this way. If you were a project manager, would you rather have the best tools and processes, but mediocre people; or talented people and so-so tools and processes? Obviously, we would pick the latter. However, that selection doesn’t make tools or process unimportant. How would you like to run a great team that had no tools? It’s just that sometimes we have to make hard decisions and having a series of “over” value statements can help.

Software development reflects the business world today—complex, uncertain, fast, risky, volatile. These traits dictate that development efforts have to be adaptable, customized, and evolutionary. There isn’t a single correct practice or method for every project. However, this doesn’t mean that anything goes—that there aren’t preferences. While we have to be adaptable, we also have to make decisions, and ultimately decisions reflect higher and lower priorities and we need to give people guidelines for their decisions.

What if the Agile Manifesto had been written?

“We believe the following are the most important:

  • Individuals and interactions
  • Working software
  • Customer collaboration
  • Responding to change”

While these would have established importance, they would not have been as effective as decision making guidelines. Even with using the term “over,” people still misinterpret the Manifesto as singularly focusing on the first parts of the statements.

In a world of complexity, this use of “over” statements can be beneficial in decision making because this type of statement does two things: (1) it clearly establishes what has highest priority, and (2) it establishes that the second part of the statement identifies something important also, just not the most important. The very fact that “processes and tools” resides in the Manifesto statement establishes them as important.

Another example of using over statements would be in evaluating project performance–what’s more important, predictability or adaptability? Write the statement one way “adaptability over predictability” provides us one guideline, while reversing them shows another. However, by including both we also establish that both are important and need to be considered in our decision making.

One of the most difficult things team members, managers, executives—everyone really—do is make decisions. Guidelines, some criteria for making decisions, are very valuable. But for the most part they can’t be black or white—they can’t be statements like “in all cases this is the most important.” There needs to be nuance that allows for complexity, uncertainty, etc. Using “over” statements as guidelines is one way to improve your team and organization’s decision making.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

In The Zone with Marcin Zasepa

Welcome to the second in our new series, ‘in the zone’, a collection of conversations with CTO’s within the CTO Zone community. Each week we’ll be discussing the latest trends, insights gained from there experiences, and future predictions for their industry. This week we’d like to welcome Marcin Zasepa, CTO at Homegate AG in Switzerland. Every episode will be approximately 30 minutes

Read More »

In The Zone with Sasha Bilton

Welcome to the first in our new series, ‘in the zone’, a collection of conversations with CTO’s within the CTO Zone community. Each week we’ll be discussing the latest trends, insights gained from there experiences, and future predictions for their industry. This week we’d like to welcome Sasha Bilton. Every episode will be approximately 30 minutes long, and we aim

Read More »

Case Study: DAZN Data Engineering

Find out how 101 Ways helped DAZN improve their existing data warehouse as well as planning and setting the foundations of the new cloud-based data platform. Click here to download the full case study. Get in touch with a member of the 101 Ways team if you would like to discuss ways in which we can help you and your company

Read More »

Search the Blog

Agile Management Made Easy!

All About Agile

By Kelly Waters

“’Agile’ is one of the biggest buzzwords of the last decade. Agile methods often come across as rather more complicated than they really are. This book is an attempt to unravel that complexity. To simplify the concepts. This book breaks the concepts into small bite-sized pieces that are easy to understand and easy to implement and delivers the message in a friendly and conversational style. Allaboutagile.com is one of the most popular blogs about agile on the web. ”

Kelly Waters

Agile 101 is available to purchase. GAME ON!

Agile 101

Emma Hopkinson-Spark

“Whilst there are lots of ways you can vary the game depending on the teams you have and the learning outcomes you want, the basic flow of the game play is common to all.”
Emma Hopkinson-Spark

Why did we make the game?

How to play the game?


101 Ways Limited
41 Corsham Street
N1 6DR
United Kingdom


101 Ways Limited
No.1 Spinningfields
Quay Street
M3 3JE
United Kingdom


101 Ways BV
Weesperstraat 61-105
1018 VN Amsterdam

Contact Us

If you would like to get in touch with one of the team at 101 Ways, then please fill out the form below or email us at contact-us@101ways.com.