Controlling Chaos (Mike Robinson)

A talk about agile development.

Agile development is a framework more suitable to software development. The principles of agile could even be used in the waterfall model. Even traditional manufacturers (e.g. in the car industry) are switching over to Agile.

Agile values:

  • Individuals and interactions (over processes and tools)
  • Working software (over comprehensive documentation)
  • Customer collaboration (over contract negotiation)
  • Responding to change (over following a plan)

(Note that the values in the parentheses are still valuable, just less than the preceding value.)

The Agile principles (abbreviated):

  • Customer satisfaction has the highest priority.
  • Welcome changing requirements.
  • Deliver working software frequently.
  • Developers must work together daily.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals.
  • Give them the environment to get the job done.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Face-to-face communication.
  • Sustainable development.
  • Maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Technical excellence and good design.
  • Simplicity.
  • Self-organizing teams.
  • The team reflect the effectivity and change its behaviour accordingly.


  • You should releases regularly, even if those releases won’t be put on the market.
  • The written requirements should not contain too much detail. Each requirement is a placeholder for contacting the client at the time the requirement gets implemented; only then the details will be discussed in depth.
  • Showing a customer an unfinished product (to check whether you are on the right track) can throw off the customer. Sometimes they cannot see through the rough interface. This can be solved by showing a prototype. If the prototype is good, the code behind it can be filled.

Agile is about building the right thing and building it the right way.

The stories you are writing should describe features that deliver value for the customer. Adding e.g. a database does not interest the customer. Either explain the customer that the first of the features X, Y and Z will take 4 times longer to get this setup. Or, as fallback, include some infrastructure setup story. But:

  • keep this to a minimum and
  • deliver at least one feature in the first iteration.

After discussing aspects of agile development, Mike split us into teams. By conducting iterations (estimate features, let the client prioritize them, agree on a set of features to implement, implement them, review with the customer) we got to create monsters from Play-Doh. A nice way to introduce people unfamiliar with agile development to the concept.

In closing, I can recommend the book “The Art of Agile Development” by James Shore and Shane Warden if you are looking for a good read about a practical approach to agile development.