The Agile Manifesto Explained in Five Minutes

We have heard promises from many manifestos recently. The thought of reading another one may disillusion you, but we can assure you that reading this manifesto will be different. It will be one of the most inspiring ones you read. Why? Because delivering this manifesto, is down to YOU and the team you choose.

So, take just five minutes and let us run you through one more list of ambitions: The Agile Manifesto.

Deliver project benefits faster

The term “agile” is thrown around very liberally within businesses these days and tends to rarely be used in its purest form. What does it actually mean? Agile is an approach to project management intended to encourage greater collaboration and innovation within teams, while also removing unnecessary governance and management effort. The aim is to quickly develop and release a ‘base’ version of your product for customers (known as the minimum viable product, or MVP.) This base version can then be built upon over time with further developments and releases (known in the Agile world as iterations). Contrary to traditional waterfall project delivery, Agile gives you the opportunity to release your product early and gain feedback to ensure it meets your customer’s needs. The approach is based on twelve principles that were originally defined in the context of IT solution implementations, but now we see agile seeping into more portfolios than ever.

The Twelve Principles (and a bit of Agile terminology to show off to your teams!)

  1. Customer satisfaction is the greatest priority. Early releases of your final product (updated software, prototypes, etc.) are shared with customers to gain their feedback and ensure they are involved in the continuous development process. This ensures that the final product is optimal for the customer.
  2. Changing requirements are welcomed. Principle 1 necessitates Principle 2. Agile invites customer feedback on iteration outputs, so teams need to embrace changing requirements, even late in development.

You will hear ‘agilers’ referring to user stories. These are the requirements of a new solution framed from the customer’s perspective. As a… [customer], I want… [feature X], so that… [I have visibility of…]. User stories are condensed into a list of requirements, termed the backlog.

  1. Working outputs are delivered frequently. There is a preference for shorter timescales (weeks not months). Agile teams will time-box the effort required to deliver the next set of prioritised requirements. These time-boxed periods are called sprints.
  2. Working outputs are the primary measure of progress. If you are not releasing a new iteration of whatever your developing, it is not progress. This prevents teams from falling into the trap of providing months of status and risk updates with nothing to show for development.
  3. Sustainable development is the way. Sponsors, developers and customers should be able to maintain a constant pace. We are not talking about overworking people here; but rather smoothing out the effort required throughout the project. Finding a sustainable balance of quality input and valuable output.
  4. The business and developers cooperating, every single day. Agile avoids silos between the business and developers. How many stories have you heard about a project team delivering something that doesn’t quite meet the needs of the business? More often than not, this is why.
  5. Face-to-face conversations are best for the team. You may love your Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams calls and these can be a legitimate option, but wherever possible co-location and face-to-face conversations are preferred.
  6. Motivated, trusted individuals. The most successful projects are delivered by teams of motivated individuals who are operating within a team that trusts them and supports them when they need it. Talk about ideas, test them, fail forwards, discuss improvements and bring on iteration 2.0.
  7. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. This is not just saying “do things well”. Principle 9 refers to making something adaptable and predictable, and thereby more agile. Consider the components of good design; it needs to be repeatable to save time, it needs to be easily communicated to aid learning and it needs to incorporate customers’ needs to increase adoption.
  8. Simplicity. Our approach should look to maximise the amount of work not Adopting traditional project management approaches we can sometimes find ourselves completing tasks for the sake of it. If it is not directly impacting the development of the next iteration, ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this?’.
  9. Self-organising teams. The most effective teams do not rely on a manager to direct the process. They are able to identify work to be completed, assign it to appropriate people and meet associated timelines.
  10. Regular adaptation to changing circumstances. Regularly meet as a team to reflect on ways to work together more effectively, to make adjustments and introduce new behaviours. These meetings are called sprint retrospectives/reviews.

The Agile Manifesto is a list of intentions that ease the process-heavy approach of traditional project management methodologies. Its aim is to put the customer first and recognise that teams/requirements are dynamic, people come and go, and external pressures and challenges arise. Agile provides a means to navigate these shifting landscapes and swiftly deliver something truly meaningful. That isn’t to say that Waterfall project delivery is dead, far from it, but Agile gives you another tool to ensure your business delivers for its customers. For more information contact EstherM@NineFeetTall.com

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