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What Are Agile Principles?

As one of the most popular and dynamic project management approaches, Agile has come a long way since its inception in the 2000s. With its incremental approach and aim to deliver valuable software consistently, Agile has been adopted by most organizations in the past two decades. 

With a scaling success rate of 80+%, Agile projects have proven to be significantly successful, providing a great learning curve for Agile teams. The foundation of Agile lies in  Jose nswamk

.“The Agile Manifesto”, a document that consists of agile values and agile principles, was put forward by a group of 17 software developers in the spring of February 2001. 

In this article, we will discuss the twelve principles in ‘The Agile Manifesto’ to understand this phenomenal project management approach that has taken the world by storm. Before we dwell on understanding the core principles of Agile, let’s take a look at the four values:

  1. Individuals and interactions are to be given more priority than processes and tools. 
  2. Precedence of working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Precedence of customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Quickly respond to changes by following an existing made plan. 

These values help the Agile team in staying abreast of the plan and embrace the changes and feedback by quickly responding to them. Now we will learn about what are Agile principles:

12 Agile Principles

  1. Acquire Customer Satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of valuable software

The Agile mindset brings customer-centric thinking at its core, and hence it involves customer opinions after each release to stay on the same page with the client. This transparency and iterative process help an organization retain customer loyalty and satisfaction. 

The incremental approach in Agile means that the team would deliver valuable products to the customer at frequent intervals, and improvise on the same after customer feedback. This dynamic approach not only makes each release valuable but also reduces the chances of future risks in the product development lifecycle. 

  1. Embrace welcoming changes, even late in the development

As an Agile project concentrates on delivering smaller, valuable units incrementally, it is easier to incorporate changes and improvisations even late during development. For ensuring the customer’s competitive advantage in the market, Agile teams perform thorough testing for each user story. 

  1. Delivering working software frequently, within a shorter time frame

Agile projects aim at delivering working software at frequent intervals “from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” While this principle might sound familiar to the last one, what this principle tries to emphasize is that there should be continuous delivery of valuables. 

Each release should be an increment over the previous one, meeting the client requirements and market trends at the time. This helps the Agile team to effectively work on the deliverables, and eliminate any possible risks or errors they might encounter. 

The goal of Agile teams should be to release more frequently and continuously reduce the release time to a shorter timescale, based on customer expectations. For ex., if the customer wants a release every week and the team is able to release only once in 2 months, the team should continuously improve to make sure they are able to deliver value as per customer expectations, in this case, every week. It may take a year to achieve, however, the team should constantly focus on moving towards a shorter timescale.

  1. Continuous collaboration between the client and developers

The core reason behind the high success rates of Agile products is that they make space for customer feedback and keep the customer in the loop in every step of the product development lifecycle. This is crucial to delivering products that check the quality parameters and attain customer satisfaction.

The customer and the software developers work closely on a daily basis together to facilitate the faster and standardized development of the final product.

  1. Build projects around self-driven individuals to foster growth and efficiency

In an Agile environment, the work is divided into manageable chunks among the team members, and each developer efficiently carries out their task. The work is not assigned to the team, instead, the team members pick the work based on priority. According to the fifth principle of Agile, they should be provided with the resources and a sound environment (culture, people, process) to execute the project seamlessly. This is a critical role of leadership to make sure they are supported to achieve results.

  1. Effective face-to-face conversation

The development team should have face-to-face communication on a daily basis. Human interaction is very key to success in incremental product development. In today’s world where we are very distributed, even if the team is distributed, the team should do video-based collaboration so everyone can see each other and collaborate. In such cases, still create some opportunities for the team to meet once in a while so they collaborate with each other with empathy.

Instead of resorting to the conventional methods of customer communication via email or once-in-a-month customer meetings, Agile has a more direct approach.

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Frequent sprint meetings or iteration meetings are held for the customer and developers to collaborate among themselves, share learnings and make required changes to the backlog. Effective communication enables the developers to work on the area of opportunities in real time. 

  1. Delivering working software is considered the primary measure of progress

From an overview of the principles mentioned above, one might sense an urgency in the process of execution. But the Agile principle of delivering valuable software more frequently, in a shorter period does not imply that the quality of the deliverable can be compromised. 

This principle highlights the importance of delivering working, usable software, not the just time or the frequency at which they are delivered. Building quality into the product development process is key to building valuable, working software incrementally.

In every iteration, the team should measure whether they are able to deliver a working, usable product to customers. Course correct based on customer feedback.

  1. Sustainable development with a focus on the end goal

In an Agile team, every release is a direct step towards the final product and the final product should be executed with a “constant pace indefinitely”, as mentioned in “The Agile Manifesto”. Every team abides by the stakeholder’s requirements and carries out the improvisations in a consistent-paced manner.

Sustainable development can be compared with marathon running with a constant pace, heart beating consistently with a sustainable pace, etc.

  1. Continuous attention toward technical excellence and good design to ensure agility

This principle suggests that the team should equally divide their attention between feature developments and technical agility. They both go hand in hand, not separately. They should ensure that the design is viable and work at eliminating possible technical errors.

Delivering working software being the primary measure of progress, the Agile team has to ensure that every little aspect is taken care of before each sprint. 

Some of the technical practices that should be brought into product development are extreme programming practices, test-driven development, behavior-driven development, pair programming, pair testing, etc. These practices will drastically improve the quality of products.

  1. Practicing Simplicity

One of the most important agile principles in the Agile Manifesto is to keep the execution and iterative simple. This means that, while the developers may encounter multiple feedback from customers, they can narrow down their activities to the next valuable task. Limiting work in progress is key. Instead of working on many backlog items in parallel, the team should focus on picking, implementing, and delivering one backlog item at a time. This will enable faster development.

Another way to look at simplicity is – to build product features that are critical to customers. As per product studies, only 20% of the features are used by the users. 20% of the features were never used. Hence focusing on what is critical for users is key. Instead of building hundreds of features, build only a few features that are key to customers and users.

  1. To have Self-Organised Teams

According to the manifesto, Agile teams should be self-organized where each individual is confident about their skillset and takes responsibility, no one assigns work to them, and the team members pick the tasks and execute them.

The manifesto claims that “the Best Architectures, Requirements, and Designs Emerge from Self-organising Teams”. The team should be capable of understanding requirements, coming up with a design, implementation, testing, and delivering to the customer or user. 

  1. Regular reflective sessions

Agile has a very thoughtful and paced approach to the execution of any project. To achieve this, regular retrospection of the tasks completed is a must among agile teams. Reflection helps the team to understand from people and process perspective how they performed, what they did well, and what improvements they should bring for future iterations, etc.

To conclude, these principles exhibit good practices that are not necessarily limited to software development. Individuals from all professions can learn from these practices and set a benchmark in their organization. 

Implementation of all the agile principles will enable the organization to drive Agile culture in the organization.


FAQs


  1. Is Agile a methodology or a framework?

No, Agile is neither a methodology nor a framework. Its 4 values and 12 principles that drive a new culture in the organization. The waterfall is a methodology, it defines a step-by-step process to follow. Agile gives high-level guidelines for the teams to follow.

  1. What is the first Agile principle?

The first Agile principle is to attain customer satisfaction by ensuring that valuable working software is delivered at frequent intervals.

  1. Why are Agile principles critical to understand?

Agile Principles drive the team’s thinking toward customer centricity, incremental software development, and delivery, high-quality product, sustainable development, continuous collaboration, and continuous improvement through reflection or feedback.