Agile Foundation

Do You Have A Foundation?

Agile will always fail if the foundation of Agile is ignored! And always means always! And, what is this foundation? Let’s talk about it.

Lets first of all look at this word Foundation. Now it is an interesting word. The Merriam-Webster defines Foundation this way: “a basis (such as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported.”

So with that in mind, let us look at the world of the construction of structures; i.e. buildings, bridges, etc.  In the construction world, our structures cannot be built until a foundation is laid. However, with that said, if that base is not built exactly as is needed for the pre-defined structure,  that structure in all likelihood, faced with adverse circumstances, will eventually come down. If we make the decision for example to build a two-story house and decide to bypass the laying of the foundation, that house will come down. It will not stand.

So what has that got to do with our subject of agile software development? Let’s begin this by saying that agile is not a methodology as so many people “proclaim” it out to be.  Agile is a philosophy! A way of thinking. Something that takes place between the ears!

A Philosophy that encourages and Embraces continual change throughout the development of any application. This philosophy must be understood and embedded in our organizational cultures from the C-Suite down to the junior I.T. practitioners.

Without this philosophy existing amongst all levels in an organization that is attempting to move into the agile space, the potential for failure is great. In today’s business environment, we are seeing failure after failure in realizing the results of that should be incurred if the project were truly agile. And those results? The project coming in on time, on budget, and giving the client a product way beyond their expectation.

 The question to be asked here, as we see this happening in so many organizations, is this: ” what is missing?”.  Why do I ask this question? Why do I assume something is missing?. I say it because in the software development industry we know that organizations whether small or large that use this philosophy correctly are seeing continual success.  Large organizations such as British Telecom and Amazon are seeing some amazing successes as they transition from a traditional product development culture to an agile product development culture. Small software development shops are also seeing some amazing successes.

 In my Journeys, as I watch and analyze what I am seeing from organization to organization,  a trend has appeared. Those organizations that are successful are stabilized on a foundation that they do not let go of. And what is this Foundation? It is something every organization and every person involved in the agile movement must keep at the forefront of their minds. And that is the foundational document called the Agile Manifesto.

I am shockingly surprised how many individuals who are so-called experts do not know the contents of the agile Manifesto. Or do not address everything they do in Agile to these values and principles. They do not know the foundation of Agile. It is this that gives us the direction on how to achieve success in the agile space. It is our foundation. Everything we do from the definition of our product to its deployment must be based on the values and principles laid out in this document. This is our foundation.

 This document contains what we call four value pillars of agile. These four value pillars hold up the 12 agile principles that are required for success in any agile project. Everything that we do from the start to the end of our project always must be directly connected to at least one of the value statements and principles that are laid out in the  Agile Manifesto.

 If practitioners cannot relate everything they do, and I mean everything, to what is laid out in this document, then do not do it. It may sound great but we need to focus on what has been proven by way of the Agile Manifesto.

 Let me give you an example here.  I have the unique position of being able to train professionals in our industry who are looking to improve their skills. I train up to 300 professionals every year and have been doing so for many years. It is interesting to note that when I ask these groups of individuals when we begin our training if they think that they work in an agile organization, many of them say yes they do. When I ask them why, I get answers like this; ” we do daily scrums.” 

When I ask them, why they do daily scrums, they tell me “We are a Scrum (agile framework) shop and Scrum tells us to do it.” I respond to that statement with a quote from Ken Schwaber one of the co-founders of Scrum. Ken says it this way, “Scrum doesn’t tell you to do a d### thing. What it does tell you, and it tells you this very quickly, it tells you where you are screwing up. Now it is up to you to go and fix it.” Jeff Sutherland the other co-founder ofScrum puts it a little more diplomatically and lays it out this way, “Scrum shows you very early in the process where your process is broken. Now fix it.”

Our problem in the I.T. industry is that we want the formula. We want the silver bullet that will solve all our problems. We want the same “Methodology”  that our buddy, the CIO down the street is using. They are using it and are showing some success, so why don’t we do it the same way and get the same successes. We have become obsessed with finding the ‘cookie cutter or “recipe” that if we follow we will get the same response. Absolutely not.

 We are building software for people. An organization is an organization of people. Every person is different. Every person is unique. Therefore every project we work on will be for different people in different areas of the business and therefore will need to be done differently.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. When an organization tells me they are agile, I ask them to tell me what framework they follow. Here is one of the answers that I have received from more than one organization. “We use the Spotify model”. That is interesting because one of the founders of this framework within Spotify recently said this.” what we do at Spotify is for the Spotify organization. Our organization is very different than any other organization. Therefore if it works well for us, in most likelihood it will not work well for any other organization.”

 Again we are obsessed with the right recipe. We believe that if we find the right recipe because it worked for somebody else then obviously it will work for us. That is not the case.

 We must go to the agile manifesto, understand it, retain it, and then use its values and principles within our organization to understand how we can transition our organization to these values and principles. Pick a framework such as Scrum or Kanban, and then take its pattern and use the rules laid out within this pattern based on how your organization fits into the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto. You must always adhere to these values and principles.

 The agile Manifesto is our foundation. If you are not going to build your philosophy based on this Foundation it will crumble and come down and you will probably like many other organizations say as agile doesn’t work.

 If you lay your foundation deep strong and firm you will enjoy success as you have never had before.

Know the Agile Manifesto. Study the Agile manifesto. Take the time to understand the Agile Manifesto. Retain it between your ears and you will have a better chance of success. I rest my case.

Remember “We are AGILE!”

Author: Ed Rubuliak


web site:

The Agile Manifesto

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