The Agile evolution has been around since 2001; however it has only recently become a method that most of you know and use. Thus, if you are starting with Agile, you are not familiar with the journey it has been on for the last 19 years. Not to worry, as I have a summary of the Agile evolution just for you.
Find out where Agile has started and where it is likely to go in the future.
There has been a growing need for a new way of organizing work for quite a while, since the 90s. This idea was especially true with software development teams that needed to account for changing customer input, be able to adapt, and be less dependent on a predefined plan. As a result, in 2001, the Agile Manifesto has come about.
Stating four core values and 12 principles, the Agile Manifesto laid down the foundation for what we know as Agile today. And while some of its signers and applications do contradict one another. What the main ideas stand for is aligned.
A declaration is an essential point in the Agile movement. It gave the varied applications and attempts, an umbrella term and core ideas to stand behind.
The beginning of Agile evolution
On February 11-13, 2001, at The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort in the Wasatch mountains of Utah, 17 people met to ski, relax, and try to voice their common ideas of an innovative PM way. What came about was the Agile ‘Software Development’ Manifesto. Representatives from Extreme Programming, Scrum, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development, Pragmatic Programming and others sympathetic to the need for an alternative to the traditional software development processes united.
According to Jim Highsmith, one of the original members of the Agile Alliance, a bigger gathering of organizational anarchists would be hard to find. So what emerged from this meeting was symbolic – a Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Signed by all participants. Again, citing Highsmith, the only concern with the term agile came from Martin Fowler. Who supposedly claimed that most Americans didn’t know how to pronounce the word ‘agile’.
This was the first big leap in agile evolution or, more precisely, revolution. Naming themselves “The Agile Alliance,” this group of independent thinkers around software development agreed on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
They all felt privileged to work with a group of people who held a set of compatible values. These values were based on trust and respect for each other and promoting organizational models focusing on people, collaboration. Thus this is the model that should last throughout the entire cycle of Agile evolution.
And they were enthusiastic about building the types of organizational communities in which they would want to work.
At the core, Agile pioneers were really about delivering good products to customers. By operating in an environment that does more than talk about “people as our most important asset” but actually acts as if people were the most important. And lose the word “asset”.
Jim Highsmith, for the Agile Alliance 2001
12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto
1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
through early and continuous delivery
of valuable software.
2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in
development. Agile processes harness change for
the customer’s competitive advantage.
3. Deliver working software frequently, from a
couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
preference to the shorter timescale.
4. Business people and developers must work
together daily throughout the project.
5. Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.
6. The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.
7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
8. Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
9. Continuous attention to technical excellence
and good design enhances agility.
10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential.
11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs
emerge from self-organizing teams.
12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.
4 core principles of Agile
1. People and interactions
Firstly, that is people and interactions, which ensures the constant sharing of information and prevents isolated working styles. The strength that this supplies engineering teams with is undeniable. It also minimizes dependencies as multiple people have access to the same information. In Agile work is defined, managed and executed by empowered teams who are not focused on the task, but instead the outcome they are trying to achieve. Stronger connection between teams and business goals, combined with fewer handovers and better coordination of roles, improves both efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, Agile brings about higher employee engagement and commitment to the company that come from a strong sense of purpose and belonging. In Agile every employee is motivated and empowered to contribute to the team and the organization with transparent goals and strategies.
2. Responding to change
Secondly, it is responding to change. In an ideal case agile functions not even as a responsive, but rather as a proactive system. In other words, it predicts changes in the market before they even appear and adjusts the direction of product development accordingly. For instance, consider the speed with which an agile organization can reprioritize the relevant features in product or service development. That is especially relevant in Covid-19 context. An Agile organization adapts to a massive shift—or temporary evaporation—in demand by using regular and frequent feedback and retrospective sessions. Streamlined decision-making and governance also enable faster responses to new conditions and shorter time to market compared to waterfall vs agile.
3. & 4. Collaboration and working solution
Thirdly, another Agile standard is collaboration. We already mentioned the importance of collaboration between team members, teams and other internal actors. However, the collaboration with customers and stakeholders is just as important in Agile. This standard is closely connected to the ultimate goal of Agile systems – the delivery of a working solution to the customer. In other words, the Agile approach to engineering optimizes processes and workflow to provide highest customer satisfaction. Agile engineering teams aim to collect customer feedback as frequently as possible. That way they to stay on track with the constantly changing customer and stakeholder requirements. As a result, they can present a relevant and potentially shippable end product.
Agile evolution after 2001: The adoption and frameworks
After the authors got back from Snowbird, Ward Cunningham posted the Agile Manifesto, and later the 12 Principles online at AgileManifesto.org. People could go online and sign it to show their support.
Agile Alliance was officially formed in late 2001 as a place for people who are developing software and helping others develop to explore and share ideas and experiences.
While some of the Agile applications were already functioning before the Agile Manifesto, they truly solidified after. The software development teams finally had a more flexible alternative to traditional project management. It offered an environment that was organized around the product and not the process.
More and more of the software development teams started using varied Agile applications like Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, and other Agile methodology frameworks. At the same time, the Manifesto and Agile Alliance gave guidance and simplified the transition for those wanting to join.
At this stage, Agile was mostly used and adopted by software development teams. They used Agile frameworks locally to have better control of their processes, while still complying with traditional project management practices on the organizational level. However, as the positive influence of Agile became more and more apparent, the interest of the outside teams grew.
Agile evolution: Gaining popularity
Once Agile had a good following and showed results with the software development teams, others seemed to notice. Finance, Marketing, Design, and other teams saw value in this way of organizing work and started implementing Agile as well. While at first, it seemed Agile could only benefit software developers, this was quickly disproved. And this new notion kick-started the agile evolution and expansion to other sectors.
As Agile became more widely known, an ecosystem formed that included the people who were doing Agile software development and the people and organizations who helped them through consulting, training, frameworks, and tools. So called Agile coaches were born and retain their relevance also today.
Teams with various backgrounds and expertise adopted Agile frameworks successfully. What pushed this adoption forward, though, was the courage to innovate and change the structures themselves. The teams saw how software developers worked and adapted the frameworks to work for their needs, all the while keeping up with the Agile Manifesto.
To this day, many think that Agile can only be done with Scrum or Kanban, but the reality is, you can make it anything you need it to be. This flexibility of the practice was the critical component of Agile going beyond the field of software development. Today we use the method in various areas, even the government.
Agile evolution: Challenges
As the ecosystem began to grow and Agile ideas began to spread, some adopters lost sight of the values and principles defined in the manifesto and according principles. Instead of following an “agile” mindset, they began insisting that certain practices be done in a necessarily certain way.
Organizations that focus solely on the practices and the rituals experience difficulties working in an Agile fashion. Organizations that are serious about living up to the Agile values and principles tend to realize the benefits they sought and find that working in an Agile fashion is no longer something that’s new and different. Instead, it simply becomes the way they approach work.
Agile evolution: Going corporate
Once the perception of Agile has changed in the public mind, there were indeed no more limits to where it could be applied. And if it worked on a team level so well, why not try and make your whole company Agile? This perception was the next step of the Agile evolution and the one we are currently in.
New applications of Agile frameworks introduced to accommodate the whole organizational structure. Many companies today base their processes on LeSS, SoS, DAD, and other scaled Agile approaches. However, it is essential to note that these solutions are not meant to fit and satisfy all companies.
If you feel like Agile could improve your company, do not be afraid to take it and apply in any way you feel fit. The only thing to keep in mind is sticking to the Agile Manifesto. Who knows, maybe your application will prove to work not only for you but for others as well.
Agile evolution: What’s Next?
So, after becoming a recognized project management approach and taking over many offices, what is the next step for Agile evolution?
The latest enterprise reports and investigations forecast that Agile is about to make a new quality leap. Companies need to build agility into their foundations and promote it in their company culture, implementing something called Agile Organization. Agile should be adopted as a mindset that the whole organization follows, not just as a methodology or IT-driven initiative. The organization doesn’t become agile just by implementing framework, practice or learning a few “agile” words. It is a long-term process of building a culture through all layers. Adopting singular practices is not enough, it is similar to having only daily stand-ups and thinking you are working in Scrum. The Agile mindset should be practiced throughout the entire organization.
The role of middle-layer managers is changing completely in an Agile organization. It’s not about just telling employees what to produce anymore. Agile frameworks like Scrum don’t even define the specific role for the managers. While scaled frameworks put weight upon product-oriented managerial roles. However, there is a huge demand for appropriate modern leadership — the ability to promote Agile culture and environment, swiftly communicate visions and goals as well as empower people in the working environment to focus on what really is important.
Agile mindset is about being able to rapidly react to whatever is happening around. And cut the costs while using the opportunities.
The agile organization in 2020 is constantly switching approaches, technologies and techniques. It is trying and testing various frameworks out to see which fits them best at a given time. It might also mix the techniques up and use a couple of them simultaneously. Another challenge — another change, nothing special.
State of Agile reports 2019-2020
According to the Enterprise Agility Report 2019 done by Raconteur, agile companies can develop products five times faster, execute decisions three times faster, and reallocate resources quickly and effectively. More than 80 percent of respondents say their organizations have undertaken agile transformation initiatives over the past five years, but nearly 16 percent report success and only 3 percent claim successful sustained transformation.
In 2019 more than 97% of questioned organizations implemented and used at least some part of agile practices.
However, according to the 13th Annual State Of Agile Report in 2019, not all teams and company layers were Agile, answers vary from 5% to 50%. That demonstrates that most organizations are far from Agile culture and indicate that Agile is currently widely practiced, but not evenly distributed.
Organizations mostly stick to Scrum or Scrum Hybrids when it’s coming to the point of choosing an agile framework.
According to State of Agile report of 2019, Scrum is by far the most popular methodology among teams. Scrum ensures that the end product suits customer needs via frequent iterations and continuous feedback.
However, this method also has its weaknesses. To make up for the shortcomings in Scrum, a large number of companies are also using other Agile methodologies (like Kanban), or a hybrid of methods (like ScrumBan) to reach success.
Scrum Master Trends report from year 2019 shows that 81% of the respondents claimed to use Kanban in addition to Scrum.
The number of organizations that fully implement at least one defined framework, like Scrum, is still incredibly small. That is, however, a milestone yet to be achieved in the agile evolution. A milestone of building Agile into the mindset of the organization.
Learn more about the Scrum master role.
Final thoughts on the future of Agile evolution
Agile is THE answer to constant changes in the current and future markets. Implementing Agile on an organizational level is the way to go for every company that wants to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment. The agile transformation is more than a tool. It is a mindset by which an organization has to live. Try to keep in mind the 12 principles and 4 core values of Agile defined in the manifesto from 2001 at all times. If you are not following these values, your agile transition is far from complete. Agile practices only work the way they should when combined with the Agile attitude. That is the future of Agile that all optimistic proponents and true believers in the methodology wish to see.
2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood.
2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank.
2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course
2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise.
Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games
Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products.
MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University.
Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing