Coté : Make the Iteration Fit the Deliverable, and Other Thoughts on Becoming Agile

Coté from the DrunkandRetired podcast has written a very good article called Make the Iteration Fit the Deliverable, and Other Thoughts on Becoming Agile.

Key points I took away are:

  • Agile development doesn’t mean planning less; as a matter of fact, it takes more planning
  • Planning should happen as part of the team not apart from it.
  • There is no fixed iteration size. You should plan your iteration size based on what you are doing.
  • Two week iterations require a pipeline of planning in order to work effectively. This pipline is normally not present unless your organization has reached a level of maturity
  • Agile development doesn’t mean throwing away design

In my mind, one of the misconceptions that people have when switching to any methodology is that there are a set of rules and procedures you must follow in order to be “doing the methodology”. I don’t think this is the case. The great thing about agile development is being able to adapt to the situation rather than be “stuck” having to follow a set of steps no matter what.

When I think about this idea, the quote from Bruce Lee about Jeet-Kune-Do, his martial art, always comes to mind:

Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.

Bruce Lee was annoyed with traditional martial arts because it had “too much form”. The martial artist was unable to adapt to the unexpected. Rather he was limited by the forms he used while learning. (Before any martial artists start posting comments – this was Bruce Lee’s philosophy – not mine). Lee thought that the martial artist, given a set of tools, should be able to react naturally rather than having to think before responding.

I view development “methodologies” in the same way.

Things are going to happen. We have to be able to respond to them in order to be effective, and not get caught up in “how” we get things done. This to me is the power of the “philosophy” of agile development. It has nothing to do with iteration size or any of the other “guidelines” in the methodology.

Shorter iterations, however, do not mean that we do not design or plan during the process. It doesn’t mean working randomly. It means that we should do what is necessary in order to plan, design, and execute – no more and no less.

I think it would be more useful to explain Agile development as a philosophy in this way rather than a set of “methodologies”. People get caught up in “doing the methodology” rather than executing what they have set out to do. I have seen this time and time again as people try to change the way they do things. Agile development methodologies provide a set of tools, like TDD and the idea of iterations. Its up to you and the needs of the project to decide which tools are appropriate to get the work done.

Anyway, I digress. Coté has obviously set off a whole train of thought in my head this morning with this article. Perhaps it will do the same for you.