Publish Date - July 11th, 2021|
Last Modified - July 10th, 2022
Agile has gone mainstream and is the approach of choice for many development teams replacing the aging Waterfall method but not completely. Not just development teams, but business teams, the military and even schools have started to incorporate agile aspects in all of their curriculums and strategies. And unsurprisingly, there is no sign that this trend will slow down any time soon. So why is Agile winning?
What is Agile?
Agile is currently the go-to framework for helping development agencies and app startups focus on efficiency and quick delivery of high quality products. The focus of Agile is to provide value throughout the entire development process, thereby minimizing the overall risk associated with any particular project and maximizing incremental gains. As opposed to waterfall, where you may see all of your benefits at the end of a project, Agile provides incremental benefit by delivering value in chunks rather than all at once.
This process is flexible and streamlined in a way that allows you to make necessary changes on an as-needed basis.
Organizations are now turning to and using Agile teams for the plethora of benefits it offers. If you are still wondering whether Agile is suitable for your team or not, here are the 8 top reasons why Agile is winning in and outside development teams.
Inside Development Teams
- One of the core concepts of agile is people and interactions over processes and tools. This has tremendous implications in the concept of work-life balance and interpersonal relationships.
The nature of software development makes this particular value somewhat challenging to accomplish. In most cases, too much focus is on scientific management. This means that most people consider the entire software development process by the tools employed to do it. For example, in manufacturing one of the largest assets in the project is machinery (trucks, tractors, bulldozers), whereas in software development – the people are the largest assets. As much as we like to think we’re durable, we’re not as durable as machines and so it’s important to maintain a watchful eye over your team members.
Moreover, the whole point of the agile methodology centers on valuing people and what they do over the processes and tools they use. The human factor in every process is crucial.
This is because people create solutions and products while the processes and tools help to enable the creators. Communication is paramount and one of the major tenets of agile is face-to-face communication is the best form of communication. This is due to the ability for people to read complex emotions (body language, atmosphere) when sitting and talking in-front of someone directly. So if you run a team, consider setting up in-person meetings now and again
- Shipping value to customers/clients is the name of the game Agile. It’s the number one principle of Agile, “always deliver value to the customer/client.”
The surest ways to keep your customers happy is to continuously deliver valuable software including early shipping, iterating frequently, and listening to your target market with unwavering resolve. This concept of delivering value is key in agile since it overall provides a benefit to the recipients of the product or service that you are providing.
For example: Would you rather receive $1000 after completion of something in 6 months, or 150$ a month after every month for six months. There’s less risk in receiving incremental revenue (and more of a chance for you to use it to prove your concepts and reinvest into your product).
Agile principles readily encourage reducing the period between ideation and launch. The whole idea is to get a working software or product in the hands of the client or customer quickly but effectively.
If development teams can do this successfully, delivery managers could push out an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) into the market. They will use this product to obtain feedback from real clients or users.
The product managers then take this feedback, feed them right back into product development processes, and effectively inform future releases.
- The concept of servant leadership is essential in Agile, as a project manager/scrum master or even product owner – supporting team members is the game’s name. Gone is the concept of command and control or dispatch hierarchy system. Agile is more about a collaborative approach to development, ensuring teams are relatively happy with the product they ship.
Scrum masters and product owner are both roles commonly seen as leadership positions. However, in their natural essence, they are servant leaders.
Servant leadership implies that instead of giving direct instructions to each team member, the scrum master and product owner drive the team toward self-organization and self-sufficiency.
- This idea of servant leadership that agile provides goes against the more traditional concept of an intelligent head who directs instructions out to other team members must follow. The advantages that follow a self-organizing team runs on servant leadership is motivated by a shared vision and tends to deliver a better output consistently.
- Because every team member is personally involved in the vision and not just following stipulated instructions, the team enjoys the flexibility that bureaucracy would not ordinarily allow.
- Since self-organized teams are collaborative, individual weaknesses are compensated for by the strengths of other members.
- Servant leadership fosters team support and coaching. The team members tend to help each other do better, and this encouragement shows up as a positive addition to the development efficiency.
Despite all the above advantages, sometimes it is elusive how servant leadership works.
You may ask, “does it mean that teams with the scrum master and product owner do not need leadership at all? How does a team self-organize anyway?”
First, you must understand that even self-organizing teams need leadership too. However, unlike the case where the leader stays on top, a servant leader empowers the team to self-organize by decentralizing the decision-making to include team members.
Second, the scrum master has to empower the team members with the necessary skills and information to make decisions. When the scrum master plays this role of empowerment which transforms the team to be self-organizing, it is already playing the role of a servant leader.
The ability to provide “Water” and “Food” to the team is the concept of providing things that they need to accomplish their tasks, break down impediments with them (by bringing in subject matter experts or supporting documentation) and shielding them from requests that may be causing them to task-switch or stopping them from completing tasks.
Servant leadership is more like regular management, only that instead of giving instructions, it relinquishes its authority, thereby strengthening the team to do more than they ordinarily could.
- XP (Extreme Programming) has impressive characteristics to help ship clean and healthy products. Concepts like sustainable development, continuous integration, simple design, minor releases, and having coding standards ensure the product shipped is of high quality.
XP – an Agile practice that is relatively more technical than Scrum – has several techniques that focus on testing everything. It also has specific standards on how to format programming code.
People work in pairs in XP as they alternate between coding and watching another colleague code. This will considerably increase the quality of the code. It also ensures that more than one person is familiar with that particular task.
XP, which is a more intense form of collaborative development than Scrum, functions on the following values:
- Communication: the simple idea behind XP is to carry everyone along in the project development. Consequently, XP relies mainly on communication to foster effective updates between the team and the client.
- Feedback: you could say that this value is an extension of the importance of communication. XP helps relay necessary feedback in real-time, which helps identify aspects of the project that you can improve.
- Simplicity: XP focuses on what is essential and deploys resources to find the easiest way to get it done. The value of simplicity considers the maintenance and cost, which are yardsticks for deciding what is essential.
- Courage: XP is highly collaborative and, therefore, encourages team members at all levels to air their minds on the projects. XP empowers team members to make suggestions and speak up against methodologies that aren’t working. It also trains them to accept feedback.
- Respect: XP fosters mutual respect, primarily because the project’s success depends on mutual respect among team members.
Based on the practical application of the above values, XP develops into a web of unique interconnected software development practices.
These practices are many. However, the unifying principle that ties them all together is collaboration, which believes that two good brains are better than one. Some of these practices include:
- Cross-Functional Team: A team should comprise people with different and complementary skills.
- Sitting Together: To engage the value of communication stated above, XP imbibes the practice of teams sitting together.
- Weekly Cycle: Teams meet to discuss the project’s progress and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Quarterly Cycle: This practice allows the team to appreciate the progress of each weekly cycle in the context of the overall project. This practice also allows the client to monitor the development process.
- Continuous Integration: This practice entails testing new codes immediately as they enter the larger project codebase. This practice guarantees that integration issues are detected and fixed soon enough.
- Pair Programming: Against a situation where team members fly solo, pair programming ensures that team members have partners who are aware and contribute to what they are doing.
Due to all of these standards and practices, there is almost a certainty that the quality of the code and therefore the software, will be extremely high quality.
Outside Development Teams
- The concept of a collaborative approach is not unique to development teams. HR, finance, sales, and even customer service can all benefit from a collaborative work environment. It helps instill higher esprit de corps and can build team devotion to the cause.
It is easy to think about the necessity for team collaboration, in particular for software development. This assumption is understandable because of the sensitive nature of development where quality and functionality are the primary concerns that agile works to accomplish. Consequently, development teams must work together towards this common goal, and agile accomplishes this by creating collaborative mediums and strategies.
However, collaboration is not unique to development teams, even the outside development teams can contribute to the quality product and end user satisfaction in the end.
For example, Customer Service is outside core project development developer / product development. Yet effective custom service communication go a long way to carry the client as they can assist, support and troubleshoot issues that the client may have with any particular product.
This enablement can flow from the delivery team of the product, to customer support and to other teams within your organization. All else being equal, the more collaborative a team is with other departments and teams, the easier it is for that team to understand react to any curve balls thrown their way.
- Small incremental changes to one’s process on and off the development surface are vital to bettering one’s life. The concept of Kaizen is an important one – changing your process, product, or perception of things (life, a person) – can be improved incrementally.
Outside core development, agile methodology combines into installments of small but steady improvement in both the product shipped and team members’ personalities. Kaizen, a philosophy whose primary principle is consistency, gradually leads to efficiency and reduction of waste.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates to “change for the better.” Over time, teams learn the power of a small incremental development process built on the following elements:
- Personal discipline
- Improved team morale
- Quality circles: to discuss the process
- Participation: every team member is empowered to make suggestions for improvement.
So, as a person or employee – you can constantly be striving to optimize one’s experience. If you’re doing a process over and over again, consider after every cycle small ways to improve that process. These small incremental changes can snowball into massive sweeping changes within your team, organization and even self.
Kaizen can be applied to everyday life, for betterment and enrichment of one’s personal and professional processes.
- The concept of prioritization is vital in your modern-day life – you’ll have many opportunities and things thrown at you. You will need to learn how to prioritize these things. A simple concept is MOSCOW that you can follow for everyday events.
For those not familiar with the acronym MOSCOW, it refers to prioritizing relevant features within the scope of a particular project. These features are divided into four distinct categories:
- Must-Have: These features must be included, or else the final product will not work. In other words, they are highly crucial to the product’s success.
- Should Have: These features are also essential and must not be omitted from the final product. Nevertheless, they can be withheld until a little later or until another unique way to meet that requirement has been discovered.
- Could Have: These are desirable features that enhance the product. But if they are not included in the final product, its efficacy will not be affected in any way.
- Won’t Have: The features may be pretty nice to have, but it is not yet time to invest in them.
So while important for software development, you can easily apply these to one’s self. Do you really need those new earrings, that new iPhone 15? Or, are they “could haves”. Do you need groceries this week? Need to pay your rent? These are “must-haves”, or “should haves”. Consider trying to dig down the root cause of every desire and inclination you have and categorize them appropriately!
- Retrospective at the end of the day, week, month, or a specific time
You should know that no matter how good a Scrum team is, there will always be room for improvement. Much like footballers gather in the locker room to discuss the game after a match and strategize for the next, agile retrospective meetings are the opportunity development teams have to discuss what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve both.
Agile sprint retrospectives focus on the work done at the end of each sprint. Development teams allocate a specific time for the retrospectives. The amount of time apportioned for sprint retrospectives depends on the sprint and what needs to happen in the meetings. There are many recommendations on how to allocate time to retrospectives. Still, generally, retrospectives are just meetings to allow team members to discuss the lessons they learned in the sprint, the problems they encountered, and how to avoid the issues in subsequent sprints.
People can easily retrospect themselves as well. Consider contemplating at the end of every day, week or even month how major events went in your life. Look at your wins / losses and things that you learned from each interaction you had with other people. If you can slowly apply fixes to the losses and carry forward your wins, you’ll succeed much more effectively in life.
So, there you have it: the 8 top reasons why agile is winning in and outside development teams. I’ve learned a great deal about agile from my PMI-ACP notes and review study guide – if you’re interested consider reading my write up on how to achieve a deeper agile understanding.
As long as more people who adopt agile learn the skills required to excel, there is no telling the height this methodology will reach.