Topic 1 : Agile Definition and Application


Agile began a fast-growing concept and methodology for the development of software and has been expanding and enveloping other types of development and industries. As a broad concept Agile has become a fundamental principle upon which more specific methodologies and concepts have been built – or in some cases adopted. Methods such as SCRUM, XP, Kanban, Lean and more have their niches, their strengths and weaknesses depending upon their application. However they are all referred to as “agile” principles. So what to abilities, and can raise the default levels above their starting point. If a Warrior is very good at sword fighting, then that ability would be raised. Once an ability is raised above 20, the character gains a level of Mastery (see the game mechanics section).

This topic explores the concepts and philosophies that underpin Agile thinking, its origins and differences, advantages and benefits. We consider the functional, organizational and psychological foundation of Agile and its ongoing rise and favour in business.

Consider the following questions as a guide to understanding this topic. Ask yourself how well you understand these principles and how satisfied you are that you can explain them.

* Why are we so focused on decisions when we compare methodologies?
* How has Agile become confused with merely the absence of planning?
* Why is the use of Agile spreading to other areas beyond its initial creation?
* How have the changes in our relationship with information influenced the evolution of Agile principles?
* What are the most important considerations of Agile thinking and how do they differ from the more traditional planned approach?

As we explore the foundation of Agile take these considerations into account when forming your own opinions.

* Agile is not a distinct methodology in itself, but is more of a philosophy or approach.
* Agile is growing for some specific and identifiable reasons, but where are those forces taking us next?
* A lot of proprietary ideas have jumped on the Agile bandwagon that can confuse the true meaning and purpose behind Agile thinking.
* Agile methods can make just as many decisions as planning-based methods, it just makes them at different times.
* Agile thinking begins with the people using it. It is not merely a business practice or policy to be followed – it is something that must exist at the core of our being to use properly.

Readings are from Agile Project Management 2nd edition (Jim Highsmith, Addison-Wesley, 2010)

Lecture 1AAgile Foundation

A project: temporary endeavour with defined goals and restraints to bring positive change. Projects uses iterative and incremental methods. A "bubble of decisions".

Agile is a decision-making method. Agility is responsiveness, to act and react with speed and ease. Agile thinking respects and responds to the variations of what needs to be done. Quickly and easily dealing with the problems that need to be responded to.

Agile is a outcome-driven, rather than plan-driven methodology. Plan-driven methodologies can be less efficient in production because decision making is further away from when the even is actually required.

What to choose? Decision efficiency or production efficiency? Content and context is needed in both cases. The right content needs to be applied in the right context for the right decision to maximise production. Up-front decision making (i.e,. maximum planning) requires contingency thinking.

Agile maximises content (decisions closest to event have maximum content) and context (capable of making fast decisions).Context is the filter than makes content important; (content is king. context is queen, alignment is the castle)

Agile arises from software development, because of its empirical base rather than defined, i.e., data has to be discovered. Also appropriate when e.g., client doesn't know what they want, client knows but they're wrong, we don't understand what the client wants, we think we understand but we're wrong., we do know how to do it., we thought we knew but we're wrong., external changes alters the objectives., the client wants something different., we can offer something different., the budget (and therefore the scope) has changed.

Lecture1B Agile vs Chaos

By their nature decisions are always made in advance. But how much in advance? Agile says 'sufficiently' to maximise production and decision efficiency. Different to the free-wheeling style that Agile is accused of. When there is not respect in the timeliness of decision making, it moves toward chaos.

Agile thinking isn't really about freedoms; indeed there is possibly less as planned methodologies are free to play 'fast and loose' with predicted facts.

Agile has less risk on poor forecasting, but may still have wayward context about decisions.

Chaos is where the activities drive and influence the plan that evolves. It is where the context reacts to the content; it makes its own path. The content-decision making suffers due to the lack of context.

Agile is a resequencing of plans and decisions; learn, decide, and review. Success depends on the speed - or agility - in making these decisions.

Agile places a lot of emphasis on value; but value is subjective. Thus it needs to be clearly defined and must shape the context for each of the steps needed (ED: compare with Product Definition in PRINCE2).

Methodologies such as Scrum, XP etc have been developed with Agile principles in mind.

Lecture1C Agile Relevance

The way in which we handle data has changed in the past decade. Moved from 'just-in-case' learning mindset to 'just-in-time' learning.

Emphasis away from the data and knowledge to use and application. "Just-in-case" learning is no longer as important due to advances in information technology, allowing us the freedom not to know, and the freedom to forget and to concentrate on what we need to know when we need it. We are better at finding the right information faster.

A stronger contextual alignment to leverage content is generally a good thing.

The data-flow of planning methodologies are slow and detailed. Errors will compound where predictions are incorrect. Agile does not have to engage in exhaustive research. Decisions are quicker and more effective.

Agile is a natural evolution of the way that our society handles data, and allows for resource re-allocation (e.g., engage in productive efficiencies). Just-in-case knowledge, for example, is inefficient. Thus the activity of research in such knowledge is also inefficient.

It also effects productivity momentum, as the momentum is damaged by interruptions.

Slides and Lecture

Course outline:

1. Definition
* Foundation
* Agile vs Chaos
* Relevance

2. Principles
* Value over Constraints
* Teams over Tasks
* Adapting over Conforming

3. Agile Model
* Agile Mindset
* Enterprise Framework
* Delivery Framework

4. Implementation
* Agile Phases
* Agile Planning
* Agile Scaling

Appeasing stereotypes

To the Plannists:
* Our best decisions will be based on the most current information which we don’t yet have
* Our most important objectives are only as stable as the predictive certainty of our client/customer
* The same important decisions but in a different order

To the Reactivists:
* We need a strong source of alignment for the team to contextually contribute together along the way
* The journey may be flexible, but the fundamental outcomes can (and must) be defined, understood and shared
* The same important decisions but in a different order

Reading : Chapter 1: The Agile Revolution (pages 5 – 26).

"... customer demands for continuous innovation and plunging costs of experimentation are signalling a massive switch from anticipatory to adaptive styles of development" (p5)

"When we reduce the cost of experimentation enough, the entire economics of how we develop products changes - it switches from one based on anticipation (define, design, and build) to one based on adaption (envision, explore, and refine). When the cost of generating alternatives plunges and the cost of integrating them into a product is low, then great products aren't built, the evolve - like biological evolution..." (p7)

"Ultimate customer value is developed at the point-of-sale, not the point-of-plan" (p8)

"There are five key business objectives for good exploration process such as Agile Project Management (APM):

1. Continuous innovation - to deliver on current customer requirements
2. Product adaptability - to deliver on future customer requirements
3. Improved time-to-market - to meet market windows and improve return on investment (ROI)
4. People and process adaptability - to respond rapidly to product and business change
5. Reliable results - to support business growth and profitability" (p10)

"A repeatable process is one in which doing the same thing in the same way produces the same results. On that is reliable delivers regardless of the impediments thrown in the way - reliability means constantly adapting to meet a goal" (p12)

"In an uncertain and turbulent world, success belongs to companies that have the capacity to create change, and maybe even chaos, for their competitors. Creating change disrupts competitors... responding to change guards against competitive thrusts. Creating change requires innovation.. your company must be able to respond quickly .. to changes created by your competitors and customers." (p13)

"Visionary companies distinguish their timeless core values and enduring purpose, which should never change, from their operating practises and business strategies (which should be changing constantly in response to a changing world)" (Collins and Poras, Built to Last, 1994) (p14)

"The core value of an egalitarian meritocracy runs deep in the agile movement. It is surely not the only core value that one can produce products, but it is a core value that defines how the majority of agilists view themselves" (p16)

"... three critical values that both summarise those in the Agile Manifesto and Declaration of Interdependence and highlight key values for agile leaders:

  • Delivering value over meeting constrains (Value over Constraints)
  • Leading the team over managing tasks (Team over Tasks)
  • Adapting to change over conforming to plans (Adapting over Conforming

" (p17)

"A traditional project manager focuses on following the plan with minimal changes, whereas the agile leader focuses on adapting successfully to inevitable changes" (p17)

"The traditional iron triangle of project management ... consists of scope, schedule, and cost.... The measures here are value (to the customer), quality (required to deliver continuous value to the customer), and constraints (scope, schedule, and cost" (p20)

"Production-orientated project management process and practises emphasize early planning and requirements with minimal ongoing change. Exploration-based processes emphasize nominal early planning, good enough requirements, and experimental and evolutionary design with significant ongoing learning and change." (p21)

"... the APM delivery approach consists of five phases, each with supporting practices: Envision, Speculate, Explore, Adapt, and Close... These phases resemble a scientific investigative process more than a production management process." (p21-22)

Readings are from Agile Project Management 2nd edition (Jim Highsmith, Addison-Wesley, 2010)