Although Agile is considered to have originated and have specific application to the technology world, it did not originate in IT. Francis Bacon created the scientific method in 1620, which was adapted and reworked into “Plan-Do-Study-Act” by Walter Shewhart at Bell Labs. This methodology tests change and improves processes as well. W. Edwards Deming, Shewhart’s protégé, used this methodology in Japan and was eventually scooped up by Toyota, where he was the father of “Lean” thinking and helped pioneer the Toyota Production System. This system focuses on process management, reducing waste, inconsistency and reducing the burden of work on its employees.
This model has helped Toyota become a leader in production and manufacturing. This was followed by another development in 1986 to accommodate rapid product development, called a “rugby approach” where development was approached by a team as a whole; this was designed by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka.
This was improved further in 1992 by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland by adding an element deemed as “scrum” which is a terminology from rugby as well; this methodology added daily meetings to the mix, allowing teams to complete projects both under budget and on time. These methodologies were adopted and reworked and tweaked into different forms as technology grew in the 90’s and 00’s.
Agile methodology was developed by a group of people who wanted to eliminate duplicate work, reduce effort and streamline processes. Several industry leaders from various technology companies met at the Snowbird ski resort in Utah in 2001 to see if they could improve upon the “waterfall” methodology that was adopted and used widely throughout the IT world. As software and technology changed over the years, the waterfall methodology could not keep up with the ever-changing priorities. Their response to this was to create what is known as Agile Methodology. The group defined Agile as: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.”
They continued to define this methodology further, to value: individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and responding to change over following a plan.
1. People: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools means that people come first, and the outdated model of an assembly line should be thrown out.
Employees should have the support that they need to get the job done. The overall work environment should be collaborative and should support creative thinking, while also empowering employees to work at a reasonable pace. People own the processes and can speak to one another face-to-face to solve problems together and think of ways to improve their environment at work.
2. Feedback: Working software over comprehensive documentation .
This approach involves making real changes to products in short periods of time, and having immediate feedback from the customer. This saves the customer time, money and frustration as they can give feedback and modify a project (if necessary) in shorter sprints, allowing for transparency and constructive feedback.
Project changes can be made and tweaked before the project progresses too far in the wrong direction.
3. Collaboration: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Since customers usually do not know what they actually would like, specifications should change over the life of the project. Consistently testing the product with the customer, and making adjustments rapidly, and collaborating often will ensure that the project is completed on time and within the scope of what the customer would like, due to frequent collaboration and a rapid feedback cycle.
4. Flexibility: Responding to change over following a plan .
Teams should focus on responding to change instead of trying to follow a vision and an overarching plan. By being responsive and flexible in reacting to change, even later on in the process, employees will be able to create results that will be more in line with what the customer wants. The group put out their “Agile Manifesto” which contained these four main tenets, in addition to 12 principles.
This was adopted widely throughout the technology community and continues to be used in other industries where the benefits are realized. Other subsets of the practice have been developed as well, as the process continues to be refined.
This article is part 3 in our Agile M&A 101 blog series.