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Agile Says What?

The other night I spend forty-five minutes on the phone with a friend talking about what agile is. He hadn’t been exposed to the ideas behind agile. When I started talking I don’t think I really hit on what agile IS. I talked about practices and the way my team works. He had many of those methods in his experiences but not all of them, and not really in what I would consider agile. After I got off the phone I noticed that I only talked about practices and not about principles. So I thought to myself, “What IS agile?”

This is a hard question for me to answer. Every time I start to think about it I go back to the practices that I use in order to achieve what I consider agile. That isn’t right. Agile isn’t a set of practices, is it? No it can’t be. The Agile Manifesto specifically states “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” If it isn’t about processes what is it?

The more I thought the more agile seemed to be nothing more than agility. Every methodology that I talked about had to do with the ability to change direction at the drop of a hat. Agile is about reaction. Not just any reaction, but ones that cause positive change and outcomes. Agile is about feedback and learning. After all this…Am I agile?

I am agile. I am constantly learning from every source at my disposal. I go looking for ways to improve myself and my product. I adapt to change. I am always trying to push the envelope further. Yet, I can’t help but feel that I missing something? What am I missing?

The one thing that I didn’t mention above. Is it in there somewhere? Delivering a useable project at any point in development. That is it. That is what I’m missing. This has got to be the hardest part of agile. No matter what we do it always seems that we are one step away from delivering that product at the drop of a hat. If the customer says, “I want to deploy now.” I should be able to happily say, “Already done.” Not that I don’t have software that I can deploy all the time, but what really makes a project “useable?” Can I deliver something that can be let out into the world every week?

That is my goal. From this moment forward I’m going to try and guide my project and my customer so that we are always moving forward with usable software. Not a half done feature at the end of an iteration. I’m going to try and guide the story selection for my projects so that at the end of each iteration we have something to “useable” to deliver. Is it possible?

What is useable? Is this really possible, or is it an ideal that we strive to achieve knowing that it doesn’t quite work that way. Once we have the app in production it is easy to keep that way, but is continuous deployment really possible from day zero? Can each commit still be tiny yet completely deployable? What are your thoughts? Also did I miss anything that defines agile, but isn’t a practice/methodology?

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