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Being Agile: Eleven Breakthrough Techniques to Keep You from "Waterfalling Backward"

By Leslie Ekas, Scott Will

Published by IBM Press

Published Date: Oct 15, 2013

Description

Break the Old, Waterfall Habits that Hinder Agile Success:

Drive Rapid Value and Continuous Improvement

 

When agile teams don’t get immediate results, it’s tempting for them to fall back into old habits that make success even less likely. In Being Agile, Leslie Ekas and Scott Will present eleven powerful techniques for rapidly gaining substantial value from agile, making agile methods stick, and launching a “virtuous circle” of continuous improvement.

 

Drawing on their experience helping more than 100 teams transition to agile, the authors review its key principles, identify corresponding practices, and offer breakthrough approaches for implementing them. Using their techniques, you can break typical waterfall patterns and go beyond merely “doing agile” to actually thinking and being agile.

 

Ekas and Will help you clear away silos, improve stakeholder interaction, eliminate waste and waterfall-style inefficiencies, and lead the agile transition far more successfully. Each of their eleven principles can stand on its own: when you combine them, they become even more valuable.

 

Coverage includes

  • Building “whole teams” that cut across silos and work together throughout a product’s lifecycle
  • Engaging product stakeholders earlier and far more effectively
  • Overcoming inefficient “waterations” and “big batch” waterfall thinking
  • Getting past the curse of multi-tasking
  • Eliminating dangerous technical and project debt
  • Repeatedly deploying “release-ready” software in real user environments
  • Delivering what customers really need, not what you think they needn Fixing the root causes of problems so they don’t recur
  • Learning from experience: mastering continuous improvement
  • Assessing whether you’re just “doing agile” or actually “being agile”

Being Agile will be indispensable for all software professionals now adopting agile; for coaches, managers, engineers, and team members who want to get more value from it and for students discovering it for the first time.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface     xviii

 

Acknowledgements     xxi

 

Introduction By Leslie Ekas     1

 

Who This Book Is For     1

What Is Our Approach?     1

What Does This Book Cover?     3

An Overview Of The Content     4

What Do You Have To Do?     6

What Benefits Can You Get from Reading This Book?     6

Who Are We?     6

Join the Conversation     7

 

Chapter 1 Whole Teams     9

 

Being agile requires whole teams because the synergy derived from cross-disciplined and cross-component

teams working together enables teams to be more productive than working in isolation. By Leslie Ekas

 

Principles     10

   What Is a Whole Team?     10

   Why Are Whole Teams Hard to Create?     11

   Cross-Component Teams     11

   Cross-Discipline Teams     12

   Cross-Geographical, Cross-Cultural, Large Teams     13

   Stable, Dedicated, and Protected     14

Practices     16

   Start with Whole Teams     16

   Maintain and Protect Dedicated Teams     16

   The Conversation     17

   Share the Same Truth     19

   No Partial Credit     19

   Offer Help     20

Metrics     20

Breakthrough     21

Summary     22

 

Chapter 2 Active Stakeholder Interaction     25

 

Being agile requires active stakeholder interaction because only your stakeholders can confirm that what you create actually meets their needs. By Scott Will

 

Principles     26

   What Is Active Stakeholder Interaction?     26

   Why Can It Be Hard to Get Active Stakeholder Interaction?     27

   Stakeholder Interaction Is Not a New Idea     29

   Stakeholder Interaction Is Not Optional     29

   Do What’s Needed—And No More     30

Practices     31

   Identifying Stakeholders     31

   Review Epics with Stakeholders     33

   Set Expectations     33

   Stakeholders Should Have Skin in the Game     34

   Make Stakeholder Interaction Compelling for Your Customers     35

   Doing Regular Demonstrations     35

   Reacting to Feedback Received     36

   When Is the Development Organization a Stakeholder?     37

   Customer Support Teams as Stakeholders     38

   Working with Customers in Countries Other Than Your Own     39

Metrics     39

Breakthrough     40

Summary     42

 

Chapter 3 Queuing Theory     43

 

Being agile requires embracing queuing theory practices because teams achieve greater efficiency and throughput by leveraging a steady flow of small work items. By Scott Will

 

Principles     44

   Why Does Waterfall Thinking Still Linger?     44

   Small Batches of Coordinated Work     45

   Frequent Feedback     46

   Ensure Sufficient Capacity     46

Practices     47

   Small Task Sizes: 4 Hours, 8 Hours, 16 Hours     47

   One User Story at a Time     48

   Short Iterations     49

   Metrics Should Support the Focus on Working Software     50

Metrics     50

Breakthrough     51

Summary     51

 

Chapter 4 No Multitasking     53

 

Being agile requires teams to avoid multitasking because teams are more productive when they focus. By Scott Will

 

Principles     55

   One Thing at a Time Is More Efficient     55

   Flow     56

   Stop Starting; Start Finishing     57

Practices     57

   Team Members Are Dedicated to a Project 100% of the Time     57

   One Project at a Time     58

   Be a “Firewall” and Stop Being a “Fast-Forward” Button     58

   Pair Programming; Pair Testing     59

   Calendar Ruthlessness     59

Metrics     60

Breakthrough     61

Summary     62

 

Chapter 5 Eliminate Waste     63

 

Being agile requires eliminating waste to realize significant efficiency, productivity, and quality gains. By Leslie Ekas

Principles     64

 

What Is Eliminating Waste?     64

   Why the Focus on Eliminating Waste?     65

   Technical Debt     65

   Project Debt     67

   Why Is It Hard to Eliminate Waste?     67

Practices     69

   Get Rid of Waste... One Way or Another     69

   Small Tasks     70

   Build Quality In     71

   Focus on Customer Value     72

   Expand “Done!” Criteria     73

   Handling Latent Defects     74

   Stop Writing Defect Records     74

Metrics     75

Breakthrough     76

Summary     77

 

Chapter 6 Working Software     79

 

Being agile requires always having working software because it validates progress, ensures the highest levels of quality, and enables regular feedback. By Leslie Ekas

 

Principles     80

   What Is Working Software?     80

   Why Is It Hard to Regularly Have Working Software?     82

   Working Software Extends Test Suites     82

Practices     83

   Short Iterations     83

   Continuous Integration and Automation     84

   Vertically Sliced Stories     85

   Evolutionary Architecture and Emergent Design     86

   In-House Deploys     88

Metrics     89

Breakthrough     89

Summary     91

 

Chapter 7 Deliver Value     93

 

Being agile requires delivering real value so that customers succeed with your product. By Scott Will

 

Principles     94

   Why User Stories?     94

Practices    97

   The “So That” Clause     97

   Vertically Sliced Stories     98

   Acceptance Criteria     99

   Using Velocity Effectively     100

Metrics     103

Breakthrough     103

   What Exactly Is a Zero-Gravity Thinker?     104

   A Real Example     106

   Zero Gravity Thinking in Sum...     106

Summary     107

 

Chapter 8 Release Often     109

 

Being agile requires releasing software often so that teams learn fast and customers succeed sooner. By Leslie Ekas

 

Principles     112

   Why Release Often?     112

   Do Just Enough     113

   Defer Commitment     114

   Why Can It Be Hard to Release Often?     116

Practices     117

   Start with Shorter Release Cycles     117

   Epic Stories     117

   Evolutionary Product Design     119

   High Value First     120

   High Risk First         121

   Value-Driven Development: the Outworking of Frequent Code Drops     123

Metrics     124

Breakthrough     125

Summary     128

 

Chapter 9 Stop the Line     129

 

Being agile requires that teams stop the line to solve critical problems at their core so that they do not lose time by dealing with the same problem again and again. By Leslie Ekas

 

Principles     130

   What Is Stop the Line?     130

   Why Is Stop the Line Hard?     131

Practices     133

   Fix Blockers     133

   Reflections as a Guide     133

   What if the Problem Is Too Big to Stop the Line?     133

Metrics     134

Breakthrough     139

Summary     141

 

Chapter 10 Agile Leadership     143

 

Being successful with agile requires leaders who learn, participate in, and experiment with agile so that they lead with an agile mindset and react with agile instincts. By Leslie Ekas

 

Principles     145

   Agile Leadership     145

   Why Is Agile Leadership Hard?     146

Practices     147

   Learn Agile, Experience Agile, Develop Agile Instincts     147

   Enable and Protect     148

   Help Your Team Learn, Let Your Team Fail     149

   Set Priorities, Provide Boundaries, and Let the Team Figure Out How     151

   A Single, Visible View of the Truth     153

Metrics     154

Breakthrough     154

Summary     155

 

Chapter 11 Continuous Improvement     157

 

Being agile requires continuous improvement because teams that continue to learn, adapt, and evolve are more productive and competitive. Agile is a never-ending journey of getting better. By Scott Will

 

Principles     158

   Why Is Continuous Improvement Important?     158

   Why Is Continuous Improvement Hard?     159

   There Is No Such Thing as “100 Percent Agile”     159

   Realize That You Will Learn New Things as a Project Progresses     160

   You Need to Set Time Aside to Sharpen Your Axe     160

   Focus on Small, On-Going Improvements     161

   Learn from Your Mistakes; Don’t Make Them Again     162

   Fail Fast     162

   Management Needs to Actively Promote Innovation     162

Practices     164

   Reflections     164

   Value Stream Mapping     166

   Addressing Reluctance     167

   The “Art” of Continuous Improvement     167

   Share     169

Metrics     169

Breakthrough     169

Summary      170

 

Appendix By Scott Will     173

 

Exploring Your Agility: A Brief, Annotated Questionnaire     173

What Would You Be Willing to Give Up?     174

Questions on Various Agile Practices     175

   How Long Are Your Iterations?     175

   How Often Do You Build?     176

   What Disciplines Are on Your Teams?     176

   Do You Carry a Defect Backlog?     176

   What Do You Automate?     177

   Do You Conduct Status Meetings?     177

   Are You Delivering Value to Your Customers?     178

   Do You Get to “Done!” Each Iteration?      178

   Are You Getting Better?     178

Concluding Thoughts     178

 

Index     179

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