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What is collaboration and why is it important to Agile methodologies?

Agile methodologies stress the benefits of collaboration, working with cross-functional teams to encourage communication between business owners and IT.

Collaboration simply means to work jointly rather than independently to accomplish a task. Agile methodologies stress the benefits of working with cross-functional teams to encourage strong communication between business owners, from whom we get requirements for products, and the technical team that produces the product. Collaboration is also very important between members of the technical team. Rather than working in functional silos, Agile methodologies promote frequent and face-to-face communication between all team members.

Two of the four values in the Agile Manifesto highlight the emphasis Agile methodologies place on strong collaboration. "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools" reminds us of the importance of strong and respectful communication. For example, rather than testers and developers using a defect tracking tool to record bugs, they are encouraged to sit and work together to recreate and resolve issues. "Customer collaboration over contract negotiation" reminds us that it's more important for a development team to allow for some flexibility to please a customer, seeking a collaborative solution to issues that might arise during product development, rather than to stick to a rigid contract.

Although collaboration is not limited to those working with Agile methodologies, Agile development practices will thrive in an organization that fosters a collaborative culture rather than a command-and-control type of culture. An Agile mindset is very similar to values practiced in collaborative cultures that encourage consensus-driven decisions, self-managed cross-functional teams and servant leadership.

There are many tools and processes that leaders can use to foster strong collaboration on their teams. Regardless of software methodology being used, any team will benefit from helping foster an environment of healthy communication and collaboration.

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