Home > Articles > Software Development & Management

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Understanding Agility

A historic marker indicating that agile methods no longer would be considered mere hype or a fringe movement was Scott Adams’ Dilbert comic strip on agility.7 With every passing year, agile concepts have become more firmly entrenched in mainstream business and, today, are largely accepted in the modern market. Of course, while noting the movement of agile methods from the realm of fringe, Adams also exposes typical misunderstandings, ill-formed expectations, and downright strange interpretations that some think still pervade the agile approach.

Agility has come into its own as a value system defined by the Agile Manifesto.8 Based on twelve principles created to ensure the value system,9 the Agile Manifesto demonstrates that there is more to agile development than just one specific methodology, such as Extreme Programming10 or Scrum.11 The first value stated in the manifesto favors “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” The processes referenced in this first value statement include agile development processes, which means teams must ensure that their development process supports their needs in the best way possible. Using the principles in the manifesto, teams can find guidance on how to modify and adjust their development processes to best support their needs.

Core Value Pair Statements

The values expressed in the Agile Manifesto apply to all agile projects, superceding guidelines of any specific agile process. The core of the manifesto compares in four statements two values and argues that although each value provides a value in general, the first value is more important than the second and that the latter half of the each statement is only valid if it supports the former.

  • Value Pair Statement #1, “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,” highlights the idea that it is always the people involved in a project and how they collaborate that determine a project’s success or failure. The manifesto does not devalue processes and tools (otherwise, we wouldn’t talk about processes, and the agile community wouldn’t have created tools such as unit-testing frameworks, integration and configuration management tools, and others), but if individuals don’t work together as a team, the best tools and processes won’t help the project succeed.
  • Value Pair Statement #2, “Working software over comprehensive documentation,” is perhaps the most often misunderstood of the four statements. People unfamiliar with agile development may mistakenly believe agile projects don’t document, or even disdain documentation. Not so. In the same way that processes and tools play a major role in successful development, documentation also plays a major role. However, this value comparison expresses that working software is the critical success factor for any development effort. Documentation might be needed to support or to understand the working software, but it can’t and shouldn’t be an end in itself.
  • Value Pair Statement #3, “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation,” emphasizes that although you need a contract, it can never be a substitute for a good relationship with your customer. In order to deliver a satisfactory product, involve customers regularly throughout the development process.
  • Value Pair Statement #4, “Responding to change over following a plan,” advocates the importance of reacting to changes (especially in terms of requirements changes), rather than sticking to an inappropriate or obsolete plan. We accept that both the customer and the project team will learn over time, and we want to acknowledge this learning and incorporate it into the development effort. If the finished product delivers what the customer and we planned for before confronting changes and disregards anything we learned during development, the product will be a failure, even if it fulfills a contract.

The agile value system accommodates collocation as well as distributed software development. Later in this chapter, I examine implications of agile principles regarding globally distributed projects.

Systemic Approach

Agile development promotes a systemic approach that is supported by a closed-loop routine of planning, doing (or performing), inspecting (or analyzing), and adapting, as follows:

  • In Planning, plan immediate activities (having broken down a development project into deliverable chunks, begin planning for the first task). This is most often short-term planning, focusing on the next iteration, but it can also be long term, such as planning the next release.
  • In Doing, perform activities planned in the first step.
  • In Inspecting, analyze the performance of the activities planned in the planning step. Did all work as planned? Was there a specific process that worked well and would be appropriate to repeat in the future? Did a specific process or plan fail or require adjustments for the future?
  • In Adapting, determine what kinds of adjustments the previous inspection step revealed are needed in order to improve development. In this step, decide necessary actions for the following iteration.

The last step in this closed-loop routine provides input for the first step in the next round, and so on.

Risk Reduction

The goal of an agile project is not only to deliver a product at the end of the project’s lifetime (called a deadline), but as well to deliver early and regularly. In order to do so, we divide the project’s lifetime into development cycles. A bigger cycle that produces much functionality (sometimes called a feature pack) is called a release. Within that, we use a smaller cycle to organize work in smaller chunks, and to deliver smaller functionalities. This smaller cycle is called an iteration.12 Both a release and an iteration lead to a delivery or a potentially shippable product.

A tremendous advantage of agile development is risk reduction through high visibility and transparency. By developing iterations of a working system, receiving regular feedback from the customer and from tests, and with tangible progress, you have access to the actual status of the project. Knowing the actual status of the project in turn enables you to make decisions regarding further deliverables and necessary actions. For example, if you encounter that the system does not fully satisfy the customer and it can’t be turned in the right direction, you have the advantage of being able to stop the project early, before all the money has been spent.

The Productivity Myth

Another common, and misguided, argument is that following an agile approach will greatly increase a development team’s productivity compared to other approaches. While this can be true, it is not always necessarily so. Agile development guides a team to deliver a working system frequently—“frequently” meaning in iterations lasting one to four weeks. A “working system,” on the other hand, is defined by the customer’s evaluation of usability. Thus, by providing a working, usable system periodically, say, every two weeks, an agile team ensures maximum business value for its customer.

Therefore, following this approach, your customer might decide to proceed with an operational system earlier. This will give your customer a market advantage. However, it does not necessarily mean that the project as a whole is finished—meaning all required features are implemented—earlier.

More Than Practices

Agility is more than a collection of practices. Every so often, I hear people mixing up specific practices with agility. Practices—for example, Extreme Programming’s pair programming or test-driven development—are a great means to preserve the agile value system; however, these practices are not the value system itself. For instance, you can successfully apply pair programming and use a linear (or waterfall) development approach.

Neither Chaotic nor Undisciplined

Many people consider the agile approach to be an undisciplined approach. Some regard agile as an ad-hoc approach that doesn’t require any planning, one in which people act independently according to whim. Sometimes, the agile label is used as an excuse for lack of preparation. For example, if a person has to conduct a workshop or deliver a talk and doesn’t prepare material, his or her presentation will consequently follow an ad-hoc approach. This person might argue that the approach used is agile, and therefore doesn’t require preparation or planning. Instead, absolutely the opposite is true: Agility requires a lot of planning, even more planning than a linear approach. As Lise Hvatum states, “Agile is highly disciplined and more difficult, requires more maturity, than waterfall.”13

The reality is, agile requires and embraces planning. In agile development, the artifact of a plan is not overly important; the activity of planning, however, is essential. Jakobsen contrasts a choice between an old management style—for example, Taylorism, where managers dictate procedure—and an innovative management style—such as Lean Jidoka,14 based on trust, respect, empowerment, and belief that it is the people who use a process who are best able to improve it.15

Improving processes means changing your original plan, and preparing for future re-planning to utilize what you learn as development occurs.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020