Agile Process – What to Love and What to Leave

April 21, 2009

in design,innovate

Agile shouldn't sound like prison. What happened to collaborative transparency?

Agile shouldn't sound like prison. What happened to collaborative transparency?

The industry has been abuzz for several years discussing, ranting and often overstating the power of an agile design process. Don’t get me wrong there is a metric ton of problems solved by adopting a more agile way of running a project. However, agile is all too frequently hailed as the end all be all and so dogmatically and rigidly framed that it can become overwhelming. Here is my take on what to pay mind to and what can be left out (caveat: I advocate for creating whatever process works with your team, people and their unique talents are paramount to adopting any ‘proven’ process.):

Agile Tenets to Keep:

- Document complicated things.Scott Ambler
Yes and yes. Take it one step further; prototype and use the discovered complexity to showcase your idea(s).
- Respond to change, over following a set
Iterating through a problem or new constraint is critical. Shoe-horning a feature into the product because of scope or time limitations will most certainly cause you grief later.
- Customer
Whether you take that to mean your client or the end consumer, both are imperative. Make sure you steward your client through the design of their product, it increases their satisfaction which equates to less potential confusion later.

Agile Tenets to Toss:

- Working software over
Yes, working software is MUCH better than a pile of documents, but insisting on working software in the early stages of product development is just as bad. Make time for ideation, exploration, conversation; create some breathing room for design research and investigation or it will be blatantly obvious and the experience will suffer.
- Designers should also codeScott Ambler
This is a tough one. I have always dabbled in code to understand what is possible, and avoid being that ‘pain in the neck’ designer who insists on something that is complicated, time-consuming or impossible. But if you’re a really talented designer you don’t NEED to be a hardcore developer. Great designers are always learning and discovering from both sides of the table.
- Capitalized, dogmatic Agile and its followers
The zealot like conversations that I have had over the past few years with people that profess the power of Agile from mountaintops are terrifying. This is no different than religion or politics, if you can’t calm down and respectfully listen and have a conversation about process, then it’s time for a hobby. Don’t be that guy.

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