Agile Principles: Work Together Daily or Fail

larry apke agile doctor

“Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”

I quote this principle verbatim to all the teams I coach constantly because it is the only completely prescriptive principle. While other principles use more vague words like “early”, “late” or “shorter”, “daily” is not open to negotiation or interpretation. The word “must” is also unequivocal as are the roles described.

That prompts the following question – why were the founders of Agile so strident with this principle while allowing for broader interpretation with all other values and principles?

To me the answer is simple – in order to avoid even the smallest chance of misinterpretation it is crucial for everyone to understand the criticality of daily communication between business and development. It also gives us a clue as to what the most important aspect found lacking (at least at the time of the writing of the Manifesto) in failing projects is.

In other words, unless you have business needs properly communicated to development, through daily interaction, chances are good that your project will fail.

This simple reality – the inability for business and development to communicate – underlines all of the failed projects I have witnessed in my many years of experience.

Interestingly, this principle also is a good measure of a company’s ability to successfully transform to agile successfully. A great number of companies that experience agile failure do so as a direct result of their inability to live the agile principles, especially in relation to the fourth agile principle.

If you want your team or organization to be agile but you have not ensured an environment where business and development can work together daily, your chances of actual success is slim to none, so please do not claim that agile has failed you when, in reality (and in nearly every case of “failed” agile I have witnessed) you have failed agile.

Larry Apke

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One Reply to “Agile Principles: Work Together Daily or Fail”

  1. Hi Larry, like you failure to understand each other is the primary reason I’ve seen for failing projects. Business versus development is the most obvious place because the language they both use is so far apart. One of the problems is that they use the same words so it’s easy to agree on something only for dev to produce something that the business weren’t expecting.

    Agile reduces the risk by encouraging communication much more regularly than traditional approaches. As a result these differences in understanding get identified and resolved earlier.

    We’ve been working on a simple approach that, used early enough, helps teams reach a shared understanding quicker and easier. We use a simple visualisation of a flow of steps and ask why each step is done, what value does it contribute. We’ve found this to be very effective working with teams in all sorts of areas. You can take a look at I’d love to hear what you think.


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