Disciplined Agile

How does agile work?

Agile is a way to get organized and work your way through a complex initiative.

At its core, agile is a way to get organized and work your way through a complex initiative:

  • Make a list. Sit down with your customer and make a list of features they’d like to see. This becomes your to-do list for the project.
  • Size things up. Size up your tasks, relative to each other, and come up with a guess as to how long each one will take.
  • Set some priorities. Ask your customer to prioritize their list so you get the most important stuff done first.
  • Start working. Start at the top of your list and start delivering value, building, iterating, and getting feedback from your customer as you go.

This is oversimplified, of course, but it should provide a basic understanding. In the real world, the iterative process is a bit more complex.

Agile Ceremonies

One of the things that sets agile apart from other management approaches is its ceremonies— sometimes referred to as rituals. These provide the framework for the team to get work done in a structured manner, help to set expectations, empower the team to collaborate effectively, and ultimately drive results.

  • Iteration/sprint planning is the activity to prioritize and identify the tasks for the next iteration.
  • The coordination meeting is a regular, short meeting of the team where status is exchanged, progress is observed, and impediments are noted and removed. This meeting is also known as a stand-up meeting or scrum.
  • The iteration/sprint demonstration showcases what the team accomplished in the iteration.
  • The retrospective is a structured reflection designed to let the team learn and improve based on what’s already been done.

These ceremonies should be scheduled in a way that makes the best use of a team’s time. For example, some teams hold the iteration retrospectives and demonstrations at the same time, since the team may have agreed that doing so is an efficient use of their time.

Agile Artifacts

These provide the framework for teams to get work done in a structured manner, help to set expectations, empower the team to collaborate effectively, and ultimately drive results.

  • The product backlog is the list of work required to create a product. This is the artifact that collects all the work flowing into the team. The product owner prioritizes the product backlog, signaling to the team which work is most important.
  • The iteration backlog is the list of work to be completed in the current iteration, in the order determined by the team.
  • A burndown chart is a graphic representation of how quickly the team is working through work items. The burndown chart shows the total effort against the amount of work for each iteration.
  • A user story is a tool used in agile to capture a description of a feature from the user’s perspective. A user story describes the type of user, what they want and why. A user story helps to create a simplified description of a requirement.