What are the 12 Agile Principles?
The Agile Manifesto is comprised of 12 Agile Principles that set the foundation for being agile. Often, people interpret these principles in different ways. In this article, I will break-down each principle into smaller phrases or words to clarify its meaning. Let's dive into each one, understand what they really mean, and be agile.
12 Agile Principles Explained
Principle 1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
What does this Agile principle mean? The phrase “our highest priority” signifies that the entire product team should know their priorities and should work on the highest priority items first. The highest priority for the product team is to “satisfy the customer” such that the product meets the needs of the customer. The phrase “early and continuous delivery of valuable software” implies that the work completed during the iteration must be demonstrated to the customers as soon as it meets the ‘Definition of Done’ to get their early feedback. Moreover, the team must strive to deliver valuable software to the customers at the end of each time-bound iteration.
Principle 2: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
This Agile principle focuses on embracing change. The phrase “welcome changing requirements” signifies the importance of accepting revised business priorities. The phrase "even late in development" signifies that changes should be welcomed irrespective of the time and effort the team has already invested to develop a feature. It's hard not to get defensive! But, think from your customer's perspective and understand the business value or the key drivers of the change.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking
Principle 3: Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
Let’s understand what this principle means. The phrase, “deliver working software” means that the Agile development team should target to deliver high-quality production-ready work at the end of each iteration. The team should target to deliver working software frequently, preferably, after every couple of weeks. The shorter the delivery timescale, the more incremental development happens with the lesser cost of change.
Principle 4: Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
This principle focuses on collaboration between the business and the development team. The phrase “must work together daily” implies that Agile development teams must interact with product sponsors daily throughout the work execution.
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” - Vince Lombardi
Principle 5: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
What does this principle mean? The phrase, “build around motivated individuals” emphasizes the importance of having motivated people on the team.
“Find people who share your values, and you’ll conquer the world together.” - John Ratzenberger
“Give them the environment and support they need” – this phrase means that agile leaders should provide the necessary infrastructure that development teams need to continuously integrate and deploy their changes and should trust the team to deliver valuable software to customers.
Principle 6: The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is a face-to-face conversation.
Out of the 12 Agile principles, this one is based on face-to-face conversation. Face-to-face conversations boost creativity, credibility, trust, and collaboration as people better understand feelings and reactions via body language and expressions. Moreover, face-to-face conversations promote friendliness and build relationships. Therefore, agile leaders, product sponsors, and business stakeholders must meet with the development team in-person regularly.
However, face-to-face conversations are often constrained by the geographical presence of the development team. Platforms for video conferencing provide the same benefits as that of face-to-face conversations and should be encouraged.
Principle 7: Working software is the primary measure of progress.
This Agile principle focuses on “working software”. The Agile development team must deliver high-quality work at the end of each iteration that can be released on-demand to end-users or customers of the product. Working software is the primary success measure. Other metrics such as productivity, committed vs actual work, and burndown charts are secondary.
Principle 8: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
The phrase “sustainable development” means that work is developed at a constant pace that can be sustained indefinitely without overburdening a development team.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
Principle 9: Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
This Agile principle states that agile leaders, developers, and the product team must continuously seek technical excellence and emergent design to enhance agility.
“In an agile project, technical excellence is measured by both capacity to deliver customer value today and create an adaptable product for tomorrow.” - Jim Highsmith
Principle 10: Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
The developers, product sponsors, and the agile leaders must identify things that do not add value or in other words, must simplify things by maximizing the amount of work not done.
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is, nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Principle 11: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
This principle is all about self-organizing teams. The product architecture, design, and features emerge from mature self-organizing teams who can freely take decisions and remove temporary blockers on their own. If developers are free to make decisions, they tend to be more accountable, innovative, and collaborative. Such an environment is best suited for emergent design and iterative development.
“A self-organizing team has authority over its work and the process it uses.” - Mike Cohn
Principle 12: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
This principle focuses on inspect and adapt. The phrase “at regular intervals” signifies the importance of setting up a regular cadence to inspect and improve. Agile frameworks recommend regular practices such as product demo and retrospectives to continuously improve the process in an iterative way.
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” - Mark Twain
Apply these 12 Agile Principles and be agile. Please post your valuable feedback in the comments section.
To learn more about the Agile Scrum Framework, read my book, The Basics Of SCRUM. If you like to understand the Lean Kanban method, check out my other book, The Basics Of Kanban.