As an Agile coach I am in the Agile transformation business. Coaches are rarely employed when an organization “gets” the philosophy and properly implements an Agile framework or methodology. In my experience those that are most challenged are those who seem to concentrate on the ceremonies while failing to focus on the bigger picture concerns – those more interested in “doing” rather than “being.”
The first Agile principle is that our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. This provides the grounding teams need as they pursue the Agile path. One things I find interesting about the principles is where the principles are vague and when they are specific or prescriptive (I will certainly touch on this more when writing about the fourth principle). In this case, “early and continuous” are vague, but “highest priority” is certainly not. While daily stand ups, planning, grooming and so on are important components, we should never forget to continually ask ourselves, are we satisfying our customers? Not because it is merely important but because it is the most important.
The phrase “early and continuous” is important because we can provide users with functionality in a more just-in-time manner and allow for more frequent feedback that is critically important when we are working on a complex endeavor like creating software. This also tangentially points to some of the best software development practices like continuous integration & delivery, Behavior Driven Development (BDD) and Test Driven Development (TDD).
The phrase “valuable software” reminds us to always be vigilant that we are actually concentrating our efforts on the most valuable stories, those that will give the most return on our investment. We should always keep in mind the Pareto principle – that we receive about 80% of our benefit from 20% of our stories and that means there is a huge value in the work not done.
As always, whenever I face a tough issue in Agile transformations, I regularly look back at the manifesto, its values and principles – especially the one that reminds me what the highest priority of software development actually is.