Agile, is it just a set of rules? Part 1 the danger of the rulebook

Part of being an Agile coach is that persuasion and communication is key.
But is it as simple as a set of rules? Well….. no.

You could argue it is by saying, Agile is having:

  1. Stand ups at 9.45 am
  2. Weekly or Iteration retrospectives
  3. Continuous integration
  4. A story board with a backlog
  5. User stories making their way across from ToDo to In Progress to Done
  6. Automated test builds
  7. Pair Programming
  8. etc…

Do all of these and then you are Agile.

Except thats not the case. Yes all of those are important aspects of Agile, and you could use them in measuring “Agile-ness” except for one thing.  They are the fruit of Agile, not the root of Agile.  You cannot take the fruit of Agile, write it down into some sort of cook book and expect another team to automatically follow the rules and become “Agile”.

The danger of the rulebook

After a while some people will get a little frustrated at some of the rules and ditch them.  For example, some personalities are not well suited to paired programming.  Or you might have inherited a monolithic piece of work where there are no unit tests available, and automated test builds is out of the question, after all the business want you to build new software not spend their money on something that’s already live and working ok!

So for whatever reason some of the rules wont work for them, so they will then say, these rules don’t work for us, therefore Agile doesn’t really work for us.  Therefore Agile doesn’t work.

Agile as a framework

The answer is subtly different from that.  Agile is a framework rather than a set of rules.  Looking at the Agile manifesto you will see that there are 4 main values (, supported by 12 principles  (  Out of the values (the root) you could get the 12 principles (branches leaves and eventually fruit).  You must remember though that these are values and not rules.

Let me put it another way, Ken Schwaber describes scrum as a game of chess ( I like to think that its like a large toolbox, there are lots of different ways and different options available to achieve the same goal.

If its not a set of rules then what is it?

Its quite simply a set of values. You can illustrate these values with examples, methods and …wait for it…. rules… I’ll explain in part 2…..

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