ten tips to know if your agile team isn't really agile


Alistair Cockburn offers these ten tips to know if your agile team isn't really agile:

  1. The team is co-located, but people are not sitting within the length of a school bus to each other.
  2. They’re distributed, and there is an absence of microphones and webcams and one or two meetings a day.
  3. They have not delivered anything to real users in the last three months. Some of my agile friends would say that’s much too long, but I’m being generous there.
  4. If no user has seen real running software inside the last month.
  5. They don’t have the output of last month’s reflection workshop or retrospective on the wall.
  6. They don’t have fully automated unit tests, and a large number of acceptance tests aren’t automated.
  7. They’re not having a build integration at least once day. Good groups do it every half hour; there are groups that get away with it every other day.
  8. They write big requirements documents, and they don’t know how to split those up into smaller pieces so they could deliver a piece of software every month.
  9. They have itty-bitty requirements on the order of “here’s what happens when you click here,” but they don’t have long-term vision for what they’re trying to accomplish.
  10. People keep saying, “It’s not my job.” One of the things about proper agile development is that there is group accountability for results. Very specifically, if the requirements are not coming in fast enough, whoever has a bit of spare time (programmers, testers, etc.) drops what they’re doing and helps gather requirements; if tests aren’t getting done, people with some spare capacity help test and so on.

Want to learn more about product management in an agile world? Go to Pragmatic Institute's Living in an Agile World resources.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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