Don't get stuck.

Don’t get stuck.

In February 2001 the Agile Manifesto was signed by 17 people. The Manifesto is comprised of four values and 12 principles. The Manifesto acted as a lightning rod for what became the Agile movement.  It provided a new framework to think about how work should or could be approached. That framework challenged the standard thinking of how software should be developed, enhanced, and maintained. 2001 was a year of transition.  Even though most organizations were successful, the US economy was on the verge of a recession (the NERB tracked the 2001 recession from March 2001 to November 2001), many IT jobs were being outsourced, and the oft-quoted Chaos Reports suggested that software (and by extension hardware and systems) projects were late, over budget and did not deliver what was needed by the business.  Anyone who was related to the broad software development industry had numerous war stories about projects that were death marches or abject failures.  That said, all was not a wasteland. Most organizations were successful and most practitioners had also had success stories.  If everything was doom and gloom most have us would have left software development, because constant failure is debilitating.  Needless to say, the change was in the air in the late 90’s and early 00’s.  The Agile Movement caught fire. (more…)

Team In An Agile Class Is Born, Collaboration!

A team is born through collaboration in an Agile class!

Agile is not just frameworks, methodologies and characteristics. It is a culture, or maybe it would be better to say that Agile can become an organization’s culture.  Organizational culture is a common pattern of behaviors and the meaning attributed to those behaviors within the organization.  Agile, if embraced, reforms organizational culture. The culture of an Agile organization features three distinct clusters of behaviors: learning, collaboration and business-driven behaviors.

Learning is personal behavior, a project behavior and an organizational behavior.  Alistair Coburn, in his keynote at the Scrum Gathering in Las Vegas, said that Agile helps projects and organizations to learn quickly.  Short iterations and rapid feedback loops give project teams and the organizations the ability to find out quickly if a solution or alternative is viable or not, and get a better handle on what they know and don’t know.

Collaboration is central to teams becoming more than a loose set of individuals. Collaboration includes the ability to take the first step, work out loud, share credit, listen and respect others. These behaviors are also an important foundation for creating self-directed and self-organized teams.

Business-driven behavior includes behaviors like embracing change. One of the core benefits of Agile is improved customer satisfaction generated by embracing change.  The inclusion of the voice of the customer by someone that is not an IT proxy is a major change in behavior for most companies. The product owner in Scrum is an example of this “new” role. A second business-driven behavior is a embracing changes to requirements. Using a disciplined approach to embrace requirements keeps the project (and by default the organization) focused on the current needs of the business.

Embracing Agile means embracing change for most organizations, which is usually pretty hard. Most Agile and Scrum coaches say that unless there is pain involved you are not tackling all of the behaviors that need to change. It is easy to believe you are Agile, but it only counts if you behave Agile.

 

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Agile is currently the buzz word de-jour in IT departments across the world.  As the frenzy around Agile has built, the definition of the word has Agile has become . .  . fuzzier.  Precursors of Agile can be tracked into the dark recesses of the 1950’s and 1970’s, with a crescendo of light-weight methodology building in the 1990’s that led to the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto, developed and signed in 2001, consolidates a set of values and principles that defines what Agile is today and guides how Agile is implemented.  The simplest definition of Agile is a means of working that embraces the four values and ten principles published in the Agile Manifesto.

There are an unlimited number of frameworks and methodologies, branded and unbranded, that address the Agile values and principles to provide culturally sensitive implementations of Agile.   A quick list some of the popular are Agile frameworks and methodologies include:

  1. Scrum
  2. Extreme Programming (xP)
  3. Agile Unified Process
  4. Disciplined Agile Delivery
  5. Crystal
  6. Dynamic Systems Development Method

The list could easily go on for a number of pages.

As example of the different implementations of Agile values and principles, let’s focus on the principle of delivering working software frequently.  xP delivers software based on a release plan that is fed by short iterations.  Scrum demands that each sprint (iteration) deliver functional software that is potentially releasable.  These are merely examples.  All of these frameworks and methodologies are Agile because each framework or methodology is built to support the Agile values and principles.

The measuring stick for whether any framework or methodology is Agile (since 2001) is how they address the values and principles in the Agile Manifesto. When applying the Agile measuring stick to determine whether a project, framework or methodology is Agile, you need to measure up on all of the Agile values or principles.