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


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 ...

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Being Agile: Eleven Breakthrough Techniques to Keep You from

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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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780133375626
  • Publisher: IBM Press
  • Publication date: 11/4/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,387,406
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Ekas has worked in software development for over 20 years as a developer, manager, and agile coach. Her industry experience ranges from a startup, to a mid-sized company, and now IBM. She has led multiple products to market successfully over the years. She has managed teams of all sizes and many disciplines and across broad geographies. Leslie helped start the IBM Software Group Agile Center of Competence after her team’s early success transforming to agile. After coaching for several years, she returned to development to lead the worldwide Rational ClearCase team. In her new job as the Smarter Infrastructure Portfolio Manager, she is helping the business team adopt an agile operational approach.

Scott Will has been with IBM for more than 22 years, the last six as an agile consultant. His experience ranges from providing consulting for small, co-located teams to teams with hundreds of engineers scattered across the world. Previously Scott was a successful programmer, tester, and customer support team lead, and he was in management for years. He is a contributing author to the book Agility and Discipline Made Easy, an IBM Master Inventor with numerous patents, a former Air Force combat pilot, and a graduate of Purdue University with a triple-major in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Numerical Analysis. He also completed his MBA while in the Air Force.

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Table of 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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