Agile Axiom #1 – Agile development actually requires more discipline that traditional waterfall methods.

March 8, 2008

Recently, I was browsing the Rally database for one of the Agile teams I manage. Rally is the tool from Rally Development we use to track the work we do as we move through the development iterations of our projects. Much to my surprise, the team had not been taking the time to keep Rally up to date. Looking at the database, it was not possible to tell which requirements had been completed, which ones had been tested, and what work was remaining. It was already the third iteration of a seven iteration project and all we had was a list of stories which had been elaborated from the requirements.

As a manager this is quite alarming. When discussing with the scrum master, I asked the simple question “how releasable are we after the first two iterations?”. The response was we had tested the code but would not be certain of the quality until we reached the two hardening iterations at the end. My response was the trouble with that is we are now attempting to execute a waterfall style QA cycle in two weeks. In waterfall, this cycle would take up to six months. Essentially, if we do not address the issue, we will significantly jeopardize the quality of the product.

In this example, it is my belief the team had actually been doing the testing and the code developed within each iteration was releasable. However, because we had not taken the time and exercised the discipline to do the housekeeping on the stories, it was impossible to be confident in the quality.

We should have been doing the following within the iteration…

  • defining stories for the iteration,
  • developing the code for the stories
  • testing the stories
  • automating the tests
  • demonstrating the functions
  • accepting the stories
  • pushing the stories that were not completed to the next iteration

Without doing this and being disciplined about it, it is impossible to tell progress and quality of the work that has been completed. Why is this discipline more important with Agile than it is with waterfall? Agile simply does not provide the end of cycle evaluation of engineering discipline found in waterfall. In Agile, this evaluation and discipline must occur throughout the iterations. You cannot procrastinate the discipline to the end of the release.

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Agile Axioms

March 8, 2008

According to most dictionaries, an Axiom is defined as “a self-evident truth that requires no proof” or “a universally accepted principle or rule”. What a perfect name for the forthcoming series of blog entries on the simple rules and principles one must follow to be successful with Agile. Beginning this weekend you will see special purpose posts called “Agile Axioms” . The intent is to share basic rules and principles I believe must be followed for an agile project to be successful.