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Posted 17 Jan 2014
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Agile's Secret Sauce: A Three Letter Word

, 17 Jan 2014
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Agile's secret sauce

Even though the industry is thirteen years removed from the initial introduction of the Agile Manifesto, the word "Agile" is still a hot topic. As with any new concept, there have been winners, losers, advocates, and detractors. Through these experiences, Agile has grown and matured to the point where some areas are beginning to harden. "Does it really make things better?" is a common outsider's question. For those who believe Agile is just the latest fad or think it's a waste of time, a second look is in order. The success or failure of Agile does not lie in its protocols, ceremonies, or fanfare. Its prosperity is the direct responsibility of those who implemented it, and also those who continue to promote and support it. This is where Agile gains traction or stumbles toward disappointment. For those championing Agile, there are two simple concepts that help drive and maintain success.

Never Stop Trying

Process improvement is a core tenant of Agile. This drive for improvement naturally extends beyond process. Agile creates an atmosphere where team members learn to trust one another and in that trust become part of something bigger. That something becomes larger than the sum of its parts. "Try" can be a powerful word in the hands of a mature team. Like a sapling that one day becomes a beautiful tree, trying requires early attention, nurturing, and encouragement. In Agile, this manifests itself as a retrospective meeting held at regular intervals to reflect as a group. It's imperative that team members are encouraged to recommend changes and are given the opportunity to try. The following words of encouragement can be helpful while reflecting: "You never know unless you try" and "You must start in order to see results."

Stay the Course

The phrase "stay the course" might sound counter to "trying," but each breathes life into the other. Encouragement must extend beyond the simple cheerleading of new ideas. These new pursuits must receive full support from the team and management. Providing that support generates valuable feedback to team members about the value of their contributions. Beyond trying, staying the course extends to all artifacts of Agile. After some time, some people might become fatigued, forgetful, or disengaged. This is where reminders and accountability step in. For instance, if a team does not maintain a proper focus on continuous planning, they will struggle. Additionally, "stay the course" is a reminder that everything has its limits. Teams shouldn't be Agile for the sake of being Agile. They should strive to make things better than they were previously. There is a distinct difference between doing Agile and being Agile.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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