Agile Principles: Progress Requires Working Software

Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

 

Pixel perfect design mockups, UML diagrams, detailed user stories, automated tests, thousands of lines of code and hours of discussions. These are just a few examples of the endless amount of stuff we can spend time creating, tweaking, editing, testing and reviewing. However, nothing shows progress quite like working software.

 

So what is working software? That’s going to be different for every team, but a good starting point might be “software that is deployed to and delivers value to the customer”. This means it might be ugly, imperfect, not-absolutely-intuitive and likely somewhat incorrect and that’s okay; you’re one step closer to making it meaningfully better.

 

This post is part of my series on the principles behind the agile manifesto. You can find the others here:

Agile Principles: Tear Down These Cubes

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
– Agile Principles

Manager, Tear Down These Walls

If you were tasked with designing a system that made spontaneous collaboration difficult, you couldn’t go wrong with the modern cube farm. Members of a “team” dispersed over an area of the office, isolated in their drab tchotchke ridden cubicles. Instant message, e-mail and chat might be great for passive communication, but when it comes to real collaboration, being physically present is essential.

But We’re Distributed!

Co-located teams are better than distributed teams. However, sometimes we cannot be co-located. That does not mean we resort to passive forms of communication and digital tools to convey our progress and ask questions. Skype is better than a phone call which is better than e-mail. Don’t underestimate your brain’s ability to gather important insight from the facial and body language of the person on the other end of that video chat.

Agile Principles: Self-Organizing Teams are Motivated Teams

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
– Agile Principles

Self-Organizing

Allow the people doing the work to self-organize and discover the best implementation they can given what they know right now. Protect them from organizational politics and outside distractions, enable them to focus on the work at hand.

Self-Directing

While we encourage self-organization, we remember the need for direction. While the team does not self-direct, they need a clear vision and an understanding of success in order to attain the autonomy and purpose required to feel motivated.

Agile Principles: Collaborate Everyday

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. – Agile Principles

Email is not Enough

Working together involves more than exchanging e-mails about the software. It’s more than passive instant messenger conversations. It’s not reviewing a digital agile tool in isolation. Working together means collaborating, negotiating and exploring the software that is being built.

Too Busy for Success?

If you’re too busy to interact, fairly frequently, on a daily basis with the rest of the team, you’re too busy to enable product success. High performance teams don’t allow their schedules to be overrun by meetings. They don’t let anything get in the way of daily collaboration, negotiating and exploration.

Agile Principles: Frequently Deliver Working Software

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
– Agile Principles

Quick Feedback

A short feedback cycle is incredibly valuable. A short feedback cycle helps ensure you’re building the correct thing. A short feedback cycle helps you decide if you should keep going. A short feedback cycle helps you know if you should stop.

Product vs. Project

Shift your mindset from working on a project to working on a product. Products don’t have end dates, they continue to exist and the organization realizes their benefits over and with time. As time goes on, incrementally release working features for the product so that you can harness the power of short feedback cycles.

Agile Principles: Deliver Early and Often, but Always Deliver Value

The Agile Manifesto describes twelve principles of agile software. In a series of twelve blog posts, I will explore each principle.

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

This principle can be broken down into two separate thoughts. Continuously delivering early, and always delivering value.

Delivering Early and Often

Delivering early is more than just delivering something before the competition. Delivering early is more than just delivering before you would have had you not been being Agile™. Delivering early means specifically delivering less than you could have otherwise. Continuous delivery and iterative development are synonymous, it is not enough to just deliver early, you need to frequently do so.

Always Deliver Value

Delivering value is difficult. At a high level, it is difficult to know what is and is not valuable. Following the process and being disciplined can get you to a point where you are delivering early and often, but without a unified vision of what you are creating, it is very difficult to deliver real value.

Delivery early and often, but always deliver something of value.