Damon Poole has written an interesting piece about which agile practices he feels really define ‘being agile‘.
When Damon says that agile is more than a single set of practices, he’s right. What’s more important than the practices is the key agile principles behind them.
Whichever methodology you prefer, whichever practices you adopt, and whichever you don’t, the most important thing is to understand these principles, and adapt your practices according to the needs of your team and the needs of your organisation.
That, for me, is really the essence of agile. It’s adaptive. Not prescriptive.
The problem, however, is that people whose understanding of the principles is not necessarily that deep might adjust the practices and lose much of the value. I’ve certainly seen this.
Ken Schwaber raises this very point in his book ‘Agile Software Development with Scrum‘. Until you really understand the principles, and have practical experience of *why* the process works, you are in no position to adapt it.
That’s where prescriptive works for teams in the early stages of adoption. And why methods such as Scrum, eXtreme Programming, and others, really do help teams to get started and find success.
Only once the key agile principles are truly embedded – not the processes, but in the mindset of the team – can the team really become truly agile, and adapt.