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What are agile principles & how to apply them to projects

A guide to the 12 commonly accepted guidelines for successful agile software development.
Software development is a team sport. Whether you're the scrum master or a junior engineer, everyone has a role to play when producing the best products for users.
But how does an engineering team set a baseline of how they work, solve problems, and interact with customers? If you have any experience with software development, you know all about the
The following guide covers the 4 values and 12 principles of agile software development and will help you take your products to the next level.

What are agile principles?

are the commonly accepted guidelines for successful agile software development. These guidelines help agile teams establish the rules of engagement, how to solve and report potential problems, and agree on the objectives for their projects.

What is the agile manifesto?

The agile manifesto is a document created in 2001 by a group of engineers called . This group, composed of 17 software engineering professionals, established the values and principles of agile using their experience in the field to guide their input. The manifesto covers the 4 values and 12 principles of agile software development.

What are the 4 values of agile?

The four values of agile are guidelines for software development, establishing the who, how, and why of software development teams. These values allow managers and their teams to create cohesive road maps and strategies guiding their product development process. By adhering to these values, product teams can improve communication and collaboration within their teams and deliver the best possible results.

Value #1: Individuals and interactions.

Strong teams result from an investment in team culture and shared psychological safety among colleagues. When members of the development team build meaningful relationships, they are more likely to make a larger investment in shared goals.
This investment leads to open face-to-face conversations, faster problem solving, and increased team morale. Further, ensuring that each team member feels valued and connected encourages better collaboration and innovation as you hone your processes. When everyone feels comfortable contributing ideas and asking questions, your team goes further, faster.

Value #2: Working software.

When creating software products, the term "working software" means the final product meets the agreed-upon definition of done. Ensuring the software is properly developed, vigorously tested, integrated into relevant platforms, and properly documented means the customer-facing version of the software is considered "working software."
Considering the goal of software development is to create a functioning end product for users, it makes sense that producing working software is a fundamental value of agile.
This value focuses on ensuring your product works at every stage and justifies the investment of resources made by the company. It also allows your team to produce working demos for customer collaboration and quality assurance measures during the project lifecycle.
Adhering to this value as your build gets stronger and more complex means evaluating all assigned tasks to determine if they support or undermine the functionality of the software being developed.

Value #3: Customer collaboration.

Nurturing a positive and collaborative relationship with customers is key when developing proprietary software for companies. Each new customer brings a unique set of resources (financial, technical, and human) and potential challenges to the table.
Despite any initial barriers, it's important to understand your team and the customer are working together to create an operational piece of software that meets the needs of the end-user.
Customer collaboration in agile developments looks different from more traditional approaches that severely limit the amount of input from the customer, usually only three to four opportunities throughout the project.
Traditional means of collaboration can lead to miscommunication and puts an imbalanced focus on avoiding changes to the project's scope, contract negotiation, and micromanagement of tasks, all to minimize customer input.
Creating an open and safe collaboration environment where customers feel they're included in the process is fundamental in agile development because it helps everyone involved discover roadblocks, encourages psychological safety within the team, and ensures fewer problems with the final product.

Value #4: Responding to change.

Proper planning is essential to projects of all sizes because it establishes a baseline of understanding among the team, creates working timelines, and allows all stakeholders to understand the goals and challenges of each piece of software.
Traditional development methodologies with strict boundaries surrounding scope, timeline, and the final product make it difficult to implement learning and adaptation into your development team's processes.
Changes in logistics and implementation are normal and can actually lead to a stronger final product and happier end-users because the team is always working toward a better solution to the problems customers face.
Considering the inevitability of change, teams that respond quickly and find valuable solutions as the project develops. This value of the agile approach provides flexibility and increases the overall stability of the software at every stage of development.

The 12 principles of agile & how to apply them

Now that we've covered the four values of agile development, it's important that we discuss the 12 principles that support those values in practice. This section also covers how to apply these principles to your agile development workflow to increase your team's productivity, encourage problem-solving, and create the kinds of products that keep customers happy.

Principle #1: Customer satisfaction is the highest priority.

The goal of developing successful software is to satisfy customer needs. This means establishing open lines of communication, setting regular check-ins for feedback, and taking action on customer requests quickly.

Principle #2: Flexible requirements through all stages.

Developers must remain open to flexibility during the development process from beginning to end. And this is true whether that means scrapping ideas that were initially considered integral to the product or extending a deadline by a reasonable amount of time. Remember, the agile process is supposed to deal with change head-on to help give your customer a competitive edge in the market.

Principle #3: Frequently deliver software.

Teams should deliver working versions of their software regularly to ensure it's of high quality at every stage. Considering many of your customers won't have an engineering background, being able to see the software working in a test environment can engage and reassure them throughout the process. Be sure to ship software at regular intervals from beginning to beta to alpha releases.

Principle #4: Business and development should work in sync.

It's not just lip-service to say software development takes a village. Considering the different ideas, perspectives, and levels of expertise required to produce and sell the final product, creating alignment across the entire cross-functional team is crucial. Schedule daily scrums and regular group and 1-1 meetings with all stakeholders, including business people. This helps remove any miscommunication or bottlenecks.

Principle #5: Build projects around motivated individuals.

Micromanagement is the killer of innovation. That's why it's so important to hire the right individuals, provide them with the proper tools and environment, and allow them to create amazing things together. Create a culture of support and encouragement to help everyone on the team perform at their highest potential.

Principle #6: Prioritize communication.

The Agile Manifesto prioritizes in-person, face-to-face meetings, but today's distributed workforce is more likely to thrive with alternate communication methods.
Bottom line: open and honest (and often real-time) communication is one of the best ways to make sure your team and customers remain happy. One way to establish this exchange of information is by hosting regular daily scrums via Zoom with all stakeholders. Creating a work culture where people can ask questions and brainstorm on solutions to roadblocks helps increase support from your team.

Principle #7: Product functionality is the primary measure of success.

This principle is pretty self-explanatory now, but it wasn't so obvious back in the day. Apparently, product sales, speed to market, etc., were prioritized over functionality.
The Agile Manifesto was engineers' assertion that functionality was the most important result of any software development project. Developers are in the business of creating software that helps end-users do their work. If that software is buggy or has a bad user experience, users are less likely to add your application to their tech stack. The key here is to run regular tests and troubleshoot throughout the entire development process.

Principle #8: Maintain a sustainable working pace.

Burnout is real. Creating workflows in agile means setting appropriate boundaries to eliminate unreasonable expectations and a manageable amount of work among your team. Ideally, developers should be able to work at the same pace from the beginning to the end of any project. This means setting goals that are achievable while also understanding the needs and working style of your team. The goal is sustainable development that takes into account the capacity of every contributor.

Principle #9: Continuous excellence helps with agility.

Solid software production is all about paying continuous attention to the fundamentals. While large projects can be daunting, attention to details like technical excellence and good design principles will help you respond to minor problems that come up throughout the project. Hammering in on the basics will help your team respond to change and allow your team to work through problems that arise during development.

Principle #10: Keep things simple.

Don't overcomplicate things if you can avoid them. This means constantly searching for the most effective way to reach the definition of done.
Development projects used to be huge in the early 2000s. Agile was developers insisting that working in smaller chunks was more efficient. Sprints developed from their insistence that projects were ideally accomplishable in a two-week time span (though you can use a longer or shorter timescale).
Any strong development team should simplify their troubleshooting, reporting, and development processes in order to work "smarter, not harder," and develop the best possible software.

Principle #11: Self-organizing teams generate the most value.

It's crucial that your team buys into the work they're doing. Having a disengaged development team can lead to miscommunication, missteps, and unnecessary work to remedy issues in the software. Create a team culture where everyone feels empowered to take ownership and initiative over their part of the project.

Principle #12: Regular reflection and iteration to improve.

Agile development focuses on learning and improving and values information learned in . Retrospectives are where you air out grievances and other issues in a fair way.
If something went wrong, developers should explain why they think it went wrong and how it can be avoided. When run poorly, it's a blame game–when run well, it's a weirdly intimate team-building exercise where everyone reflects, learns, and gets ready for the next sprint.
Some developers consider "retros" sacred. To increase buy-in from your team, hold regular retrospective meetings to reflect on the team's areas of success and the areas where changes are necessary. The goal of this principle is to make sure your team is always improving and becoming more efficient.

Agile templates for your next project.

Templates are a great way to streamline the planning and execution of your projects. Here are a few to get your next project started quickly.

Achievable goals and milestones are the cornerstones of good agile project management. Your team needs to understand and own their work and its goals to produce the results your customers need. Use this epics and OKR tracker template to set and track the way your team works and their achievement throughout the process.

Every project has goals. However, without a developed workflow or the proper tools to do the job, teams can find it difficult to make the day-to-day work happen. Use this template to help design your own workflow and our toolkit suggestions to level up your tech stack.

Considering how much agile development depends on communication, creating structured meetings is crucial in your efforts to keep everyone informed and engaged. Check out this template for daily standup meetings to make your next scrum more productive.

Once you find the right tool for the job, you'll never go back to doing things the same. Use this agile poker planning tool to maximize the results of your next project.

Agile principles FAQs

How many values and principles does the Agile Manifesto have?

The Agile Manifesto has 4 values and 12 principles. These values and principles help development teams produce software that works at every stage of the process and encourage problem-solving and innovation.

What are the most important values and principles of the Agile Manifesto?

Each value and principle plays a vital role in the agile framework. However, values like responding to change and the principles of keeping things simple, fostering open communication, and an emphasis on regular reflection and improvement are the most important. This is because they establish the culture your team thrives on while working in the agile framework.

Can agile principles be implemented in every project?

Yes! Agile principles are useful for every project your team works on because they help establish a baseline of beliefs, best practices, and red lines that govern the team's work. Other options besides agile methodologies include the , , , and

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