What is Agile?
Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.
The authors of the Agile Manifesto chose “Agile” as the label for this whole idea because that word represented the adaptiveness and response to change which was so important to their approach.
It’s really about thinking through how you can understand what’s going on in the environment that you’re in today, identify what uncertainty you’re facing, and figure out how you can adapt to that as you go along.
What is Agile Software Development?
Agile software development is more than frameworks such as Scrum, Extreme Programming, or Feature-Driven Development (FDD).
Agile software development is more than practices such as pair programming, test-driven development, stand-ups, planning sessions, and sprints.
Agile software development is an umbrella term for a set of frameworks and practices based on the values and principles expressed in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the 12 Principles behind it. When you approach software development in a particular manner, it’s generally good to live by these values and principles and use them to help figure out the right things to do given your particular context.
One thing that separates Agile from other approaches to software development is the focus on the people doing the work and how they work together. Solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams utilizing the appropriate practices for their context.
There’s a big focus in the Agile software development community on collaboration and the self-organizing team.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t managers. It means that teams have the ability to figure out how they’re going to approach things on their own.
It means that those teams are cross-functional. Those teams don’t have to have specific roles involved so much as that when you get the team together, you make sure that you have all the right skill sets on the team.
There still is a place for managers. Managers make sure team members have, or obtain, the right skill sets. Managers provide the environment that allows the team to be successful. Managers mostly step back and let their team figure out how they are going to deliver products, but they step in when the teams try but are unable to resolve issues.
When most teams and organizations start doing Agile development, they focus on the practices that help with collaboration and organizing the work, which is great. However, another key set of practices that are not as frequently followed but should be are specific technical practices that directly deal with developing software in a way that helps your team deal with uncertainty. Those technical practices are essential and something you shouldn’t overlook.