Understanding the Agile Manifesto

Understanding the Agile Manifesto
I recently read Larry Apke’s eBook Understanding the Agile Manifesto: A Brief and Bold Guide to Agile.  Larry is a Scrum Master and Agile Coach with six years of experience.  He speaks at many industry conferences and blogs at Agile Doctor.  This book uses the Agile Manifesto as a framework for Larry to share his experience and advice.  He has many good stories to bring the manifesto to life, plus his views on the intentions of the original signors.

The Agile Values

Individuals and interactions over process and tools

The first part of the manifesto starts with the Agile values, “Individuals and interactions over process and tools”.  Larry reminds us that we value the items on the left more than those on the right.  He details how Agile is a reaction or realignment from the software development process where the process became more important than the working software.

People are not a resource to managed or controlled like a resource.  He reminds us how knowledge workers need different management styles than manufacturing workers.  Most of us resent the micro-management that the traditional waterfall management style fosters.  The self organizing teams helps team members feel empowered.  Larry tells us how teams can share the philosophy of Agile, but use different methodologies that fit the team, such as Scrum vs Kanban.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Larry calls this the most often misunderstood part of the Agile manifesto.  Some take this to mean or justify no documentation for their system.  He reminds us that how the previous waterfall system used a gated approach with copious documents and design was completed before the software development starts.  The focus should be working software first and then documentation.  The problem with waterfall system is that many times the documentation can get out of date quickly an requires time to be updated.

The Agile Principles

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software

We need focus on “being” agile and understanding the underlying reasons for the movement over “doing” agile steps.  This reminder hit home to me as my early time as a scrum master I spent time being more prescriptive.  I wanted to follow all the steps without thinking about if it was providing “business value.”  Larry reminds us that we need to continually ask, “Are we satisfying the customer?”  We should also strive to deliver early and continuously to provide features just in time.  He also discusses the Pareto principle or as some call it the 80/20 rule.  Where 80% of the value is from 20% of your features.  There is value in the work that is not done, we don’t want to add as some call it “gold plating.”  This is the unnecessary features and requests that will go largely unused.  The statistic cited is “64% of developed features are rarely or never used.”

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly

One of the last items covered is the importance of the retrospective.  We need to check our performance periodically and see if we need to make some changes.  Larry suggests that we become “Scientists” and periodically conduct experiments.  Through these we can determine how a team works  best.  He also points out how the myth of using “Best Practices”, as they may work for one team they don’t always translate to the different team dynamics.

Scrum masters need to focus on removing impediments so the team can make progress.  By fixing small problems the team begins to “gel” and realizes progress.  During the retrospective we need to start with reviewing the items we wanted to focus on during the sprint just completed.  Also if we try to focus on too many things we won’t accomplish any of them.  This reminds me of the Confucius quote,  “Man who chases two rabbits catches none.”  This frequent feedback is important part of the Agile approach and should never be neglected or bypassed.

Overall Larry’s book gives you a great perspective on the Agile manifesto.  I suggest you get a copy from Amazon and check it out.

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