Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

The values in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development inspired the following 12 principles. These principles are the characteristics that differentiate a set of agile practices from a heavyweight process.

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. The MIT Sloan Management Review published an analysis of software development practices that help companies build high-quality products.[1] The article found a number of practices that had a significant impact on the quality of the final system. One was a strong correlation between quality and the early delivery of a partially functioning system. The article reported that the less functional the initial delivery, the higher the quality in the final delivery. The article also found a strong correlation between final quality and frequent deliveries of increasing functionality. The more frequent the deliveries, the higher the final quality.

    [1] "Product-Development Practices That Work: How Internet Companies Build Software," MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2001, reprint number 4226.

    An agile set of practices delivers early and often. We strive to deliver a rudimentary system within the first few weeks of the start of the project. Thereafter, we strive to continue to deliver systems of increasing functionality every few weeks. Customers may choose to put these systems into production if they think that they are functional enough. Or, they may choose simply to review the existing functionality and report on changes they want made.

  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. This is a statement of attitude. The participants in an agile process are not afraid of change. They view changes to the requirements as good things, because those changes mean that the team has learned more about what it will take to satisfy the customer.

    An agile team works very hard to keep the structure of its software flexible, so that when requirements change, the impact to the system is minimal. Later in this book, we discuss the object-oriented design principles, patterns, and practices that help us to maintain this kind of flexibility.

  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter time scale. We deliver working software, and we deliver it early and often. We are not content with delivering bundles of documents or plans. We don’t count those as true deliveries. Our eye is on the goal of delivering software that satisfies the customer’s needs.

  4. Businesspeople and developers must work together daily throughout the project. In order for a project to be agile, customers, developers, and stakeholders must have significant and frequent interaction. A software project is not like a fire-and-forget weapon. A software project must be continuously guided.

  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. People are the most important success factor. All other factorsprocess, environment, management, and so onare second-order factors and are subject to change if they are having an adverse effect on the people.

  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. In an agile project, people talk to one another. The primary mode of communication is human interaction. Written documents are created and updated incrementally on the same schedule as the software and only as needed.

  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress. Agile projects measure their progress by measuring the amount of software that is currently meeting the customer’s need. They don’t measure their progress in terms of the phase they are in or by the volume of documentation that has been produced or by the amount of infrastructure code they have created. They are 30 percent done when 30 percent of the necessary functionality is working.

  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. An agile project is not run like a 50-yard dash; it is run like a marathon. The team does not take off at full speed and try to maintain that speed for the duration. Rather, it runs at a fast but sustainable pace.

    Running too fast leads to burnout, shortcuts, and debacle. Agile teams pace themselves. They don’t allow themselves to get too tired. They don’t borrow tomorrow’s energy to get a bit more done today. They work at a rate that allows them to maintain the highest-quality standards for the duration of the project.

  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. High quality is the key to high speed. The way to go fast is to keep the software as clean and robust as possible. Thus, all agile team members are committed to producing only the highest quality code they can. They do not make messes and then tell themselves that they’ll clean them up when they have more time. They clean any messes as they are made.

  10. Simplicitythe art of maximizing the amount of work not doneis essential. Agile teams do not try to build the grand system in the sky. Rather, they always take the simplest path that is consistent with their goals. They don’t put a lot of importance on anticipating tomorrow’s problems; nor do they try to defend against all of them today. Rather, they do the simplest and highest quality work today, confident that it will be easy to change if and when tomorrow’s problems arise.

  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. An agile team is a self-organizing team. Responsibilities are not handed to individual team members from the outside but rather are communicated to the team as a whole. The team determines the best way to fulfill those responsibilities.

    Agile team members work together on all aspects of the project. Each member is allowed input into the whole. No single team member is solely responsible for the architecture or the requirements or the tests. The team shares those responsibilities, and each team member has influence over them.

  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. An agile team continually adjusts its organization, rules, conventions, relationships, and so on. An agile team knows that its environment is continuously changing and knows that it must change with that environment to remain agile.

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

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