Agile Development: 4 Ways to Tell if You’re Living in the Past or Staying True to Agile Principles

Companies have a history of creating lengthy documentation that bogs down software development. In this “pre-Agile” era, requirements were established up front, testing didn’t occur until Agile methodologies developed, and the customer wasn’t involved until they were given the end product. Modifications and changes could cause an entire project to go way over budget or even fail. Everyone knew there had to be a better way.

In 2001, seventeen software gurus came together in Snowbird, Utah to eat, ski, and discuss different approaches to building software. These ‘organizational anarchists’ brought their independent initiatives with them, such as Feature Driven Development, Extreme Programming, Crystal, SCRUM, Adaptive Software Development, and pragmatic programming. Their common focus was on lightweight ways to develop software and by the end of the meeting they established the Agile Manifesto.

A principle of the Agile Manifesto states “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” We know it works. Its history tells a story and helps us understand the true value and impact of an Agile framework in today’s creative economy.

Ask yourself these 4 questions to determine if you’re living in Agile’s past or holding fast to its core guiding principles:

1) Do you value processes and tools over individuals and interactions?

If you’re investing excessive time and money in defining processes or configuring tools, you’re living in the past and it’s time to re-evaluate. While these can be beneficial, it’s the people who truly bring value to a product or service. Let processes and tools take the backseat to open communication. Encouraging people to interact and communicate allows teams to innovate, excel, and ultimately deliver a valuable product.

2) Does comprehensive documentation triumph working software?

You shouldn’t write pages of requirements and detailed product specification up front. Why? It often becomes obsolete or needs to be modified before the project even starts. Shifting the focus to working software, product, and service means delivering the highest value to the customer early and often. An unwavering focus on quality, working software means you’re upholding the Agile Manifesto’s guiding principles. Hooray!

3) Do you spend a lot of time negotiating contracts instead of collaborating with customers?

This is a sign of living in Agile’s past. It’s important to understand what you’re building and delivering, but you can’t do that if you’re not in tune with your customers. Encourage continuous collaboration, transparency, and communication between team members, product owners, and stakeholders. Let your customers’ needs drive the development process to minimize misunderstandings and maximize valuable results.

4) Are you sticking with the plan instead of responding to change?

As Dwight D. Eisenhower said “Planning is everything, plans are useless.” You simply cannot anticipate everything and sometimes you’ll have to deviate from the original schedule. The plan is there to guide your team, but building and delivering an innovative product or service requires you to continually adapt to change.

Don’t lose focus by falling into the trap of traditional waterfall processes. Agile only works when you place value on communication, regular intervals, and working software.