How to do XYZ in Agile?


Clients sometimes ask, "How do you do estimation in Agile?" or, in general "How do you do XYZ in Agile?". Typically, they are people making a transition from non-Agile methods. They often (understandably) want to hold on to some existing ways of functioning. They would like to blend Agile into their existing processes. There is a problem here. To be agile is not about following a different set of prescribed processes or practices. The only things that matter are:
  • Continuous delivery of valuable functionality
  • Happy team (team includes client)
The agile manifesto starts off by saying:

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
The practices codified under XP (or Scrum) is just documentation of how a bunch of practitioners were able to achieve continuous delivery and happy team. The question, "How do you do XYZ in Agile?" misses the point. It is a relic of a process conformance mentality. What's more, I was once asked, "Is it ok to ask for a number of tailorings or deviations from the master process template for agile?" I was speechless. Turned out that the organization still retained the services of a group called SEPG (software engineering process group, a relic of CMM) to define a master process template for agile. Every project was supposed to conform to the template and ask approval for tailorings (tweaking a process/practice) or deviations (omitting a process/practice)!

If you are achieving continuous delivery and happy team, you are obviously doing something right. It doesn't matter how Agile it is. If you aren't achieving continuous delivery and happy team then again it doesn't matter how Agile your processes are. One might argue that this is watered-down agile. Big deal. Granted, it is definitely wise to go by the book first. It is arrogant/foolish to assume that we are smarter than the book before we begin. After all, the book represents distilled wisdom of practitioners. But it is important to keep an eye on the outcomes. All advice is contextual. It is no use wailing that you have done everything by the book and arem't getting results. It is dogma to stick to the book in the face of contrary results.

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