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Mike is a certified PMP project manager and a certified ScrumMaster. Mike was involved with the creation of the DSDM Agile Project Leader certification, holds this certification at the Foundation, Practitioner, and Examiner levels. Mike was named an honorary member of the DSDM consortium and served on the board of APLN and the Lean Software and Systems Consortium. He currently co-leads the PMI Agile Community of Practice. Mike is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 139 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Explaining Agile

02.01.2010
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Doing what I do for a living, I find myself often trying to explain agile concepts to folks that are relatively new to agile methodologies. Sometimes this comes up when I am teaching a class, doing a conference talk, or breaking down some idea in a blog post. I thought I'd share my approach with you guys, and a little on how I think about this, and see if you guys have anything to add.

Agile is a Family of Methodologies
Okay... so you are going to 'adopt agile'. What exactly does that mean? Well... if you are going to change how you are delivering software, it helps to start with an understanding of the methodologies and approaches that you have at your disposal. I like to start off talking about these methodologies and how they relate to each other.

  • Extreme Programming
  • Scrum
  • Agile Unified Process
  • Adaptive Project Management
  • Feature Driven Development
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method
  • Crystal Clear
  • Lean
  • Kanban

Methodologies Share a Common Value System

What came first, the chicken or the egg? If you look at the history of Agile, the manifesto didn't come first. We had some folks in the community, folks that were already using lightweight methodologies, that came together to explore what these approaches had in common. After we have an anchor point with the various approaches, I like to talk about the principles and values that unite them. Seems consistent with how we actually evolved as a community.

  • Agile Manifesto
  • Declaration of Interdependence
  • Lean Values

Supporting the Modern Development Organization

Next I like to explore what these methodologies have in common from the standpoint of how we build software in today's modern product development organizations. Each of the methodologies express different aspects of the product development lifecycle. XP is heavier on engineering, Scrum heavier on project management and team dynamics. I like to explain the methodologies in terms of how they address stuff we are already familiar with.

  • Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Leadership

Practices that are Consistent with Values


Now is a good time to explain the practices that are associated with many of the common agile approaches. Doing these practices doesn't make you agile, but if you understand how they fit into and support the values and attitudes, they certainly do reinforce an agile mindset.

  • Iteration Planning
  • Daily Standup
  • Iteration Review
  • Retrospective
  • Pair Programming
  • Continuous Integration
  • Test Driven Development
  • Small Teams
  • Co-location
  • Collaboration
  • Information Radiators

Artifacts that Support Practices


Similar to the practices we just discussed, agile artifacts don't make you agile. These artifacts are proven to support agility and make collaboration and responding to change all that much easier.

  • Backlogs
  • Users Stories
  • Burn-down Charts
  • Cumulative Flow Diagrams

Agile Roles and Responsibilities

At the end of the day, it is the people in your organization that ultimately determine your success or failure with agile methods. It is important to tell them how adopting an agile methodology is going to impact what they do for a living. When I talk about roles and responsibilities, I often find myself talking about culture and the impact that agile adoption is going to have on yours.

  • Customer
  • ScrumMaster
  • Team
  • Business Stakeholders
  • Managers

Scaling Agile

All but the simplest organizations are going to have to deal with the scaling issue at some point in time. Even if you are going from one team to two, or two teams to four... understanding how scaling impacts your business is an important part of the adoption discussion.

  • Agile organizations are built around cross-functional teams
  • Structure and culture will trump people, process, and tools every time

Final Thoughts and a Bit on Chapter Two

This isn't an exhaustive list, just the things I seem to come back to the most. It's raining here in Atlanta, so today I am doing some writing. My kids are going to drag me off the couch in a few hours and make me take them to the indoor airsoft arena, so I need to get a few words in while I have the chance. Chapter two is going to explore some of these ideas in more detail, so I expect to share some more on this approach over the next few days. Stay tuned!
References
Published at DZone with permission of Mike Cottmeyer, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Paul Russel replied on Sun, 2012/06/10 - 5:46am

We completely agree – paying attention to the small differences, and the large ones, between the people we work with can sometimes be the key to coaching them and helping them progress. We’re all unique, after all

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