The 4 fundamental pillars of Agile

Date: 03/10/2023| Category: Agile|

The word “Agile” encompasses a set of methods and practices that share a common vision and 12 Principles, set out in the Agile Manifesto (“Manifesto for agile software development”).

The Manifesto was the consequence of industry frustration in the 1990s with the delay between business requirements and technology delivery. Business and customer requirements changed during this time and the final product did not meet current needs.

All Agile methodologies are based on four fundamental values, the so-called four pillars:

  • Individuals and interactions
  • Working software
  • Customer collaboration
  • Responding to change

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

In the past, many teams focused on having the best possible tools or processes with which to build their software. The Agile Manifesto suggests that while these elements are important, the people behind the processes are even more important.

At the core of Agile is a people-centric mindset. The “individuals and interactions” pillar emphasizes the importance of effective communication and collaboration within a project team. Agile recognizes that success depends not only on processes and tools, but also on the skills, expertise and commitment of team members. By promoting open and transparent communication, Agile encourages face-to-face interactions, active listening, and the sharing of ideas and feedback. Whatever the project, an agile methodology highlights the ability of the people involved to generate fresh and innovative ideas thanks to their interactions. In other words, the rigid hierarchy is not that important, the important thing is that everyone can contribute to the process.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

The Agile Manifesto was designed to eliminate the frustrations of heavy, documentation-based software development processes. Instead of wasting time preparing detailed product specifications, Agile teams summarize all relevant information into a single user story.  With this streamlined approach, developers can get to work right away and prepare the software for release. The idea is to get a working product and refine it later, rather than trying to document everything before you even start the work.

Unlike more traditional (waterfall) methodologies, which focus on extensive planning and documentation, Agile emphasizes creating tangible, usable products quickly. By adopting iterative development cycles, commonly known as sprints, Agile teams make small, incremental releases of software. This approach allows stakeholders to provide feedback early in the development process and allows for some flexibility in adapting to changing requirements. Working software serves to tangibly measure progress and ensure value is delivered to customers and end users throughout the project lifecycle.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Agile encourages close collaboration for Agile teams and active involvement of customers or stakeholders throughout the entire development process. This approach emphasizes customer satisfaction and adaptability to changing requirements.

According to the Agile Manifesto, the focus must be on continuous development. You need to create a feedback loop with your customers, so you can constantly ensure that the product is working for them.

The Agile methodology places a strong emphasis on collaboration with the customer throughout the journey. This pillar recognizes that customer needs and priorities may evolve over time and that continuous feedback is critical to the success of the project and/or product. By involving customers directly in the development process, Agile teams can gather valuable insights, refine requirements, and ensure that delivered software aligns with customer expectations. Regular interactions with customers and demonstrations of software features foster a sense of partnership and allow stakeholders to have a direct impact on development. Through close collaboration, Agile teams can deliver solutions that truly address customer needs and maximize business value.

Responding to change over following a plan

In today’s dynamic business environment, requirements and priorities can evolve rapidly. Agile methodology recognizes this reality and provides a framework for responding to change effectively.

Rather than viewing change as a disruption, Agile teams embrace it as an opportunity for improvement. They prioritize flexibility, adaptability and continuous learning. Through regular feedback loops and retrospectives, teams identify areas for improvement, modify their plans and refine processes. This pillar enables teams to quickly respond to changing market conditions, emerging technologies, and customer needs, ultimately improving project outcomes.

That’s why the Agile Manifesto suggests that a software team should have the ability to change direction whenever it needs to, with a flexible roadmap to reflect this. A dynamic roadmap can change from quarter to quarter, sometimes even month to month, and agile teams are able to keep up with these changes.

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word “agile” is “having a quick, resourceful, and adaptable character.” This description applies perfectly to Agile team members, who are open to change and willing to adapt their software to ensure the final product is the best it can be. This Agile mentality contrasts with traditional methodologies, which aim to avoid changes and stick as closely as possible to the original project plan

Agile is also a mindset

Understanding the four pillars is critical for any organization or team looking to implement Agile practices. These pillars are not just principles, but are the very foundation on which the Agile methodology is based. By prioritizing people and interactions, working software, collaborating with customers, and responding to change, organizations can foster a culture of adaptability, innovation, and customer centricity. Agile methodology provides a framework that enables teams to deliver high-quality products efficiently, continuously improving and satisfying customers. Agile is not just a methodology, but also a mindset that allows teams to thrive in an ever-changing world.

The Agile Manifesto was created in 2001 with the goal of “discovering better ways to develop software by doing it and helping others do it.” The document includes four core values, also known as the pillars of Agile. The Agile pillars help guide teams in product development and project management.

Source: Agile Manigesto

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