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3 Tips For Quarter Milers: A Sprinter's Understanding of Agile Software Development

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Kevin Cross
Father, husband and general problem solver who loves coding SQL, C#, Salesforce Apex or whatever.

3 Tips For Quarter Milers:
A Sprinter's Understanding of Agile Software Development

Two years ago, I wrote a blog entry about Agile software development. At that point, I was intrigued to write an article about the Agile project management and software development state — one does not do Agile, but rather, one is Agile. However, I do not feel I know enough about Agile. Though, I am extremely versed in sprinting, so it occurred to me: Agile is about moving from a start position to an end goal — value — faster than one has ever done before — and, preferably, faster than competitors.

Agility or nimbleness is the ability to change the body's position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, endurance and stamina. In business and software development, agility means the capability of rapidly and efficiently adapting to changes. ~ Wikipedia
For me, the analogy between Agile and sprinting helped to dispel the myth that Agile is not well planned or documented. First, preparation and leadership are crucial before the race even begins. As far as documentation goes, one can read a book about running, or one can run. Agile simply asserts that if the correct face-to-face conversations take place, an over emphasis on documentation is unnecessary as the manual develops itself over time. Of course one must adjust to changing situations once the race starts, but mainly the key is to execute — attack the curves, maintain speed through the straight-aways, and finish strong.

Attack the curves.
Building momentum at the beginning of a project or a race can often be a challenge. There are many twists and a potential for an unclear view of the finish line. However, accelerating through the turns is a good approach. In other words, push hard to fight inertia. Deadlines are deadlines. Do not push release dates back!

Maintain speed through the straight-aways.
Straight-forward tasks are easier. A common pitfall in project execution is not approaching these tasks with the same vigor as the complex ones. Therefore, the trick is to move as fast or faster through this portion of the race as everything else. This builds front-runner skills: pushing oneself to perform better without external pressure. In other words, if a Sprinter is already world-class, then the impetus to improve upon metrics may need to come from an internal competitiveness. Running a mile in five minutes is good; however, running a quarter mile in one minute — or a mile in four minutes — is better.
 
Finish strong.
Again, it is easy to coast; however, the most effective Sprinters stay aggressive.

I hope it has been clear that quick but strong preparation coupled with rapid execution is what it means to be agile. I also hope that others, adopting the Agile project management philosophy, are successful.

Remember to draft off others — they faced the turbulence, so you don't have to; therefore, here are the authors of the Agile Manifesto that I personally follow: Jeff Sutherland (@jeffsutherland), Ward Cunningham (@WardCunningham), Martin Fowler (@martinfowler), Ron Jeffries (@RonJeffries), and Kent Beck (@KentBeck).

In parting, please remember that research and training is good, but do not forget to get out and sprint some time. It will help you avoid half-arsed agile software development.

Best regards and happy coding,

Kevin C. Cross, Sr. (mwvisa1)

References:

Cunningham, W., et al. (2001). Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Retrieved from http://agilemanifesto.org/

Resources and Related Articles:

Cunningham & Cunningham, Inc. > http://c2.com/
Martin Fowler > http://www.martinfowler.com/
Three Rivers Institute > http://www.threeriversinstitute.org/
XProgramming.com > http://xprogramming.com/

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