The very heart of being agile

The heart of agile – it’s very essence – is the principle that the best solutions come from exploring the evolving solution with the customer, rather than specifying it all up front and presenting them with the solution at the end. Are we agreed so far? Good!

But this means that customer collaboration is the one key essential element that makes agile what it is. All of the other techniques – user stories, planning poker, stand-ups, retrospectives, collaborative planning, etc – are designed with this in mind. Without active and constant business involvement, they just don’t work as well, and teams find themselves making compromises. Without active business involvement on a daily basis, teams are forced into getting the most out of the limited time they do have with the business by doing more and more specification in advance. This is a perfectly reasonable response to the problem of a lack of business involvement, but it does limit your agility.

Look at your user stories. Are they just a single sentence in the recognised Cohn format, with genuine acceptance criteria? Do you leave the details until the time you code up the solution, when you can discuss it with the business? Or not?

Being Agile is ALL about active user/business/customer involvement. Without that, you cannot be effectively agile. But you shouldn’t pretend that you are, either.

So what’s left? If you really cannot get the required level of business involvement, you can tailor the DSDM Atern lifecycle to compensate. Start by doing more during Foundations – do more visioning, design and modelling, and plan in more detail to ensure that you can schedule business activities early and get their commitment. You might also consider the focus of each timebox: Exploration, Engineering or both. Think about how the lack of business involvement limits your velocity, and plan around that to ensure you can make best progress without leaving all your business acceptance testing to the end.

Remember, the goal is still the early delivery of real business value.

About aterny

Agile enthusiast and evangelist, DSDM practitioner, trainer and coach. Specialist in Agile project and programme management, governance and organisational transformation
This entry was posted in Agile and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The very heart of being agile

  1. PM Hut says:


    In your opinion, will all the work that the client should do in an Agile project, shouldn’t the client’s organization be ready to accept Agile before managing a project using the Agile framework?

    • aterny says:

      Yes, they should. But that applies to any other method too. Resourcing a project is one of those things a PM has to do very early on. It’s just a different level of involvement over the entire project when using an agile approach.
      I think what happens in a lot of organisations (but not all) is that the change to agile originates within IT, and the business are the last to be invited to the party – entirely the wrong way round.

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