Sunday, May 19, 2024

What does the 6th Agile Principle (Face-to-Face Conversation) look like in Action?

 Many want to go Agile or claim to be Agile. The question is, will you align with the Agile values and principles? In this article, I expand on the sixth principle to better understand what it means and attempt to identify what evidence looks like to determine if a culture change may be occurring. What is this principle?  

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. Agile puts a premium on face-to-face communication. Because of the nonverbal cues built into communication, there is a benefit of harvesting visual cues during interpersonal interactions. Face-to-face discussion improves the overall communication experience and understanding. From an Agile perspective, a team (about seven people +/-) should be as collocated as reasonable or use technology to emulate face-to-face interaction as much as possible. 

With communication comes the importance of listening. Listening means hearing and understanding what the other is saying and what they are not saying (hence the importance of nonverbal cues). Face-to-face also helps with understanding silence. Is silence due to a lack of understanding, not being engaged, or other reasons? Face-to-face nonverbal cues can help probe the reason. Another aspect of collaboration is being assertive. Quietly listening does not lead to building ideas. Therefore, communication is a balance between being a collaborative speaker and a respectful listener. With this in mind, what tangible actions exhibit promoting face-to-face communication? 

  • A team is collocated or, if not, then when meeting, the cameras are on.
  • Teams are kept small (about seven +/-).
  • Conference rooms or team rooms are available for face-to-face conversation.
  • Technologies are used to emulate face-to-face discussion whenever collocation is not possible.
  • Whiteboards in the collocated team room or technologies used to emulate whiteboards as means to visualize, brainstorm, and collaborate on topics.
  • Listening and collaboration skills are emphasized.

It is up to you to determine what supporting evidence looks like when a company believes in face-to-face communication and the advantages it brings. It is worth experimenting with this as it will help you better understand and embrace the Agile principles. The ultimate question is, do you believe in the benefits of face-to-face conversations?

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Learn more about what other Agile Principles look like in action:


Friday, April 19, 2024

What does the 5th Agile Principle (Motivated Individuals who are Trusted) look like in Action?

Many want to go Agile or claim to be Agile. The question is, will you align with the Agile values and principles? In this article, I expand on the fifth principle to better understand what it means and attempt to identify what evidence looks like to determine if a culture change may be occurring. What is this principle?  

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. Agile recognizes providing employees with ownership of their work can increase engagement, productivity, and happiness. There are strategies to get employees engaged, continually educated, and building on their strengths. Management values employee opinions, appreciates them, and trusts that they can get the work done. 


With communication comes the importance of listening. Listening means hearing and understanding what the other is saying and what they are not saying (hence the importance of nonverbal cues). Face-to-face also helps with understanding silence. Is silence due to a lack of understanding, not being engaged, or other reasons? Face-to-face nonverbal cues can help probe the reason. Another aspect of collaboration is being assertive. Quietly listening does not lead to building ideas. Therefore, communication is a balance between being a collaborative speaker and a respectful listener. With this in mind, what tangible actions exhibit promoting face-to-face communication?

  • Teams have the ability to make decisions, such as how to complete and size their own work.
  • Management trusts team decisions and minimizes command and control.
  • Teams are kept whole and members are treated like people, not fungible resources.
  • Management provides transparency in decision making.
  • Management provides organizational goals such as employee engagement. 
  • The PO provides release and sprint goals.
  • Team members demonstrate their working software during sprint reviews.
  • The Scrum Master provides a servant–leader approach.

It is up to you to determine what supporting evidence looks like when a company believes in motivating individuals and trusting them to get the job done. It is worth experimenting with this as it will help you better understand and embrace the Agile principles. The ultimate question is, do you believe that business and development should work continuously together as a team?

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Learn more about what other Agile Principles look like in action:

Thursday, March 14, 2024

What does the 4th Agile Principle (Business and Development Work Together) look like in Action?

Many want to go Agile or claim to be Agile. The question is, are you and will you align with the Agile values and principles? In this article, I expand on the fourth principle to better understand what it means and attempt to identify what evidence looks like to determine if a culture change may be occurring. What is this principle?  

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. Agile attempts to bring an understanding of business value to the development team and the technical choices and challenges to the business side. To do this, it attempts to integrate business and development as one team. In traditional approaches, there is often little interaction between the business (e.g., product management, sales, and marketing) and development (aka, cross-functional technical team). On the business side, this may be the Product Manager or Business Owner. Scrum introduces the Product Owner (PO) role and XP introduces the Customer role as the bridge between the customer and the development team. These roles allow for a closer embodiment of the business and development team spirit and avoid fiefdoms and throwing work “over the wall” from one group to another with little interaction. 

The intent is to make a sincere effort to build a collaborative and amicable yet productive relationship between business and development. Development benefits from a better understanding of what the customer finds valuable. The business side benefits because development will ask for details that the business may not have thought about. In both cases, the result is a product that more closely aligns with what the customer finds valuable. What actions and evidence exhibit business people and developers working together?

  • An established and productive relationship between business/customers and development
  • A dedicated business owner who works continuously with the development team. 
  • Development comprises a cross-functional team with developers, testers, technical writers, designers, and so on. 
  • The business owner with the development team work together during iterative planning to build a mutual understanding of the requirements of what to build. 
  • The development team demos the working product to the business owner and customers to gain feedback to better align with customer value. 
  • The development team can reach out to the business owner whenever needed throughout the project lifecycle.   

It is up to you to determine what supporting evidence will highlight that continuous integration, build, test, and frequent delivery is occurring. It is worth experimenting with this as it will help you better understand and embrace the Agile principles. The ultimate question is, do you believe that business and development should work continuously together as a team?

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To learn more about what the Agile Principles look like in Action, consider reading:


Monday, February 19, 2024

What does the 3rd Agile Principle (Frequent Delivery) look like in Action?

Many want to go Agile or claim to be Agile. The question is, are you and will you align with the Agile values and principles? In this article, I expand on the third principle to better understand what it means and attempt to identify what evidence looks like to determine if a culture change may be occurring. What is this principle?  

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale is the third Agile principle. This principle promotes the ability that when customers believe there is value in what is built, it can be immediately delivered. Identifying the elusive customer value means you can release it when the customer wants it. If it is delivered too early, the customer may not be ready for it; if it is too late, the market opportunity is missed. 

Agile thinking includes a fluid world, where changes are continuous welcome, and teams have the capability of releasing frequently. This ability to frequently release, highlights the importance of having processes and infrastructure to help with continuous integration, build, and test. This ability assumes a level of automation that needs to be in place. Automated testing increases the possibility of testing the functionality as is reasonable, including the capability of performing non-functional testing such as performance testing, load testing, and more. 

What actions exhibit frequent delivery?  
  • An established and positive relationship with customers
  • Iterative framework with Sprint Reviews to incorporate feedback quickly 
  • A release capability to incrementally and rapidly deploy software 
  • Continuous integration supported by a merging process and configuration management system 
  • A continuous build process supported by an automated build management system 
  • Test automation infrastructure that can support continuous testing  
It is up to you to determine what supporting evidence will highlight that continuous integration, build, test, and frequent delivery is occurring. It is worth experimenting with this as it will help you better understand and embrace the Agile principles. The ultimate question, do you really believe in the principle that focuses on frequent delivery?

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To learn more about what the Agile Principles look like in Action, consider reading:

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

What does the 2nd Agile Principle (Welcome Change to Requirements) look like in Action?

Many want to go Agile or claim to be Agile. The question is, are you and will you really align with the Agile values and principles?  To better understand what this means, I dissected the Principles to better discover the intentions behind them and what behaviors they entail. In this article, I expand on the second Principle to better understand what it means and to attempt to model how to marshal supporting evidence that a culture change may be occurring.  

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage is the second Agile principle. From an Agile perspective, you embrace change to increase the chances of delivering value to the customer. You embrace change because you understand that change is necessary as customer needs, market conditions, and general demand change over time. 

Welcoming change implies several qualities. The first is that there is a positive attitude toward change from the team and management. The second is that while change ideas are admitted, they are methodically prioritized based on customer value along with existing requirements. The third is that there is a process that allows prioritized changes to flow without obstruction.

What actions may exhibit “welcoming change to requirements”? Some evidence includes:  

  • The PO continually engages with the customer to identify new requirements or changes to existing requirements. 
  • A methodical review of the change idea occurs to determine the priority amongst the existing requirements.
  • No person or process restricts incoming change ideas. 
  • The backlog is continually refined and reprioritized. 
  • Increment Planning and/or Sprint Planning is applied to introduce the newly prioritized requirements. 
  • Continuous customer engagement via customer visits and sprint reviews are applied. 

It is up to you to determine what supporting evidence will highlight that a culture change is occurring. It is worth experimenting with this as it will help you better understand and embrace the Agile principles. The ultimate question, if you really believe in this principle is, do you welcome change?

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To learn about what evidence might look like to support the 1st Agile Principle (aka, Satisfying Customer with Valuable Software), consider reading: https://cmforagile.blogspot.com/2023/09/many-want-to-go-agile-or-claim-to-be.html

Saturday, September 30, 2023

What does the 1st Agile Principle (Satisfying Customer with Valuable Software) look like in Action?

Many want to go Agile or claim to be Agile. The question is, are you and will you really align with the Agile values and principles?  To better understand what this means, I dissected the Principles to better discover the intentions behind them and what behaviors they entail. In this article, I expand on the first Principle and attempt to model how to marshal supporting evidence that a culture change may be occurring.  

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software is the first Agile principle.  Satisfying the customer means delivering valuable software in a timely manner (that is, in the market window) for a reasonable cost. Continually striving to meet elusive customer value is important. Ultimately, the key measure of value for customers is an increase in sales and the continued loyalty of existing customers. 

How do you know that you are moving in the right direction of building value? It starts with understanding your customers: who they are and what motivates them. Their profiles include such information as their challenges, their vision for your product, and their buying trends. 

Delivering value continues with an effective sprint review process where the customer gains an opportunity to review and provide feedback on working software. If customers can sense that their input is valued during the demos, their satisfaction can increase. This is particularly true if the customers see that their feedback from the last demo has been incorporated in the working software of the current version. 

In addition, it is beneficial to use the Business Owner/Product Owner (PO) as the delegated voice of the customer to solicit acceptance criteria on what the customer would expect when they see a particular requirement or feature in action. You may also conduct periodic customer surveys to gauge their level of satisfaction with the product or solution. 

What actions exhibit “satisfying customer with valuable software”? 

  • The PO works to understand customer value, constantly prioritizes and refines the backlog, and discusses customer needs with the team. 
  • The PO creates customer profiles to recognize motivations. 
  • The backlog is your single source of requirements (aka, value). 
  • The Customer vision reflects how you wish to engage your customers. 
  • Business Strategy focuses on delighting the customer. 
  • Customers are an integral part of Reviews to provide feedback and validate value. 
  • Acceptance criteria are been captured and met for each user story. 
  • Customer satisfaction surveys are periodically conducted. 
  • Customer revenue metrics are captured and reviewed.  

It is up to you to determine what supporting evidence will highlight that a culture change is occurring. It is worth experimenting with as it will help you better understand and embrace the Agile principles. The final question, if you really believe in this principle, do you believe in continuous customer engagement, adapting requirements, and validation as a means of building valuable software to satisfy the customer? 

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Learn more about what other Agile Principles look like in action:

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Importance of Agile Readiness for a Transformation

To be a successful farmer, one must first know the nature of the soil.  —Xenophon, Oeconomicus 

Have you ever been in a daily stand-up where everyone was reporting status to the one person they thought was the leader or where most didn’t know why they were doing a stand-up every day or ever? This highlights a lack of readying the mind for what a daily stand-up is and why we are doing it.  A lack of readiness can stall or halt an Agile transformation because people aren’t in the right frame of mind for transitioning to Agile.

Readiness starts the moment when the question, “Is Agile right for me?” is asked. Readiness activities can help you better determine if Agile is right for you. Agile readiness is akin to conditioning and fertilizing the soil before growing the seeds. It is good to take a realistic look at the conditions of the fields, equipment, and people. Conditioning the mind with an understanding of Agile principles improves the ability to adopt Agile in a way that leads to truly being Agile. Strengthening the soil helps improve the physical qualities of the soil, especially in its ability to provide nutrition for plants. They can make poor soil more usable and rebuild soil that has been damaged by improper management.

This is exactly what readiness activities can do. Examine the condition of the environment where Agile is being considered. Understand and educate people on the Agile values and principles and the business benefits that can be gained. Gauge the buy-in from leaders and the willingness and capability of teams. Determine if openness or command-and-control behaviors are being exhibited (explicitly or implicitly). Understanding this context provides valuable insight into ways to adapt and move forward.  What we learn, can help shape the agile implementation according to the condition and context of an organization.

You do not need to complete all readiness activities to begin implementing, but I have learned that if you begin implementing Agile, you quickly realize that you will need to address these areas, so it is better to be proactive. With this in mind, an iterative approach may be used. Here are high-level readiness activities that you may consider. As always, feel free to adapt this list of activities if it benefits you.

  • Establish a common understanding of Agile.
  • Construct and share the drivers for an Agile organizational change.
  • Provide Agile mindset education based on Agile values and principles. Then determine subsequent educational needs.
  • Add “Customers and Employees Matter” to the company vision and share this with employees.
  • Gauge levels of executive and stakeholder buy-in.
  • Establish an overall strategy and backlog for the agile transformation.
  • Determine team willingness and capability.
  • Identify allies, champions, and subject matter experts (SMEs) and resources.
  • Identify and establish agile roles and organization.
  • Establish agile frameworks and practices that may be used. (This should not be a prescriptive model but a flexible framework, because each team is different.)
  • Establish done criteria, user story framework, and sizing techniques.
  • Craft measures of success and general metrics.

A benefit of readiness activities is that you can adapt the transformation approach based on what you learn. Another advantage is that if you find that there are challenges in an area, you can address and improve the situation. For example, you may find that there is not a clear driver for moving to Agile. This can initiate discussions on the business benefits of Agile, motivational factors behind the move, and what it takes to be Agile.

Consider Agile readiness activities as the first increment in your transformation. The outcome of Agile readiness and what you’ve learned can help you better plan the next iteration. Finally, I recommend that once you embark on these activities, you initiate periodic check-ins to gauge progress, mitigate roadblocks (such as risks and issues), and adapt along the way.