Agile relies on the belief that individuals and interactions are more important than tools. It turns out that this belief is much more than just that. Individuals do work more productively in teams. Social cognitive neuroscience research strongly suggests that there are good brain-based reasons why agile is so effective.
The agile software development framework has been with us for over a decade. The classic principles were stated in 2001 in the Agile Manifesto (agilemanifesto.org):
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
These principles identify agile’s differences with the standard top-down waterfall method of creating software. The waterfall method requires a large overall plan and a set of processes and standard tools to use in following the plan. The execution of the plan is the immediate purpose. Unstated, but clear, is that managers are needed to supervise the execution of all the steps of the plan, including the intermediate steps, in the proper order. The actual working software comes only at the end of the waterfall.
In sharp contrast, agile gives control to individuals, where people on the agile team, interacting and responding to changes, take responsibility for producing the software.
The same meeting that produced the Agile Manifesto also produced these Twelve Principles:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Interestingly, five of those 12 principles mention time, which to me shows that speed, timing and rhythm were Agile’s focus from the start.
II. Agile methods are supported by cognitive neuroscience
Now let’s turn to the science. The Agile Manifesto established a milestone in the world of work.
I started reading this because the tile, but kept reading it because of its content... Very interesting...