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What are the principles of agile working?

Agile is a framework and a working mind-set which helps respond to changing requirements. It focuses on delivering maximum value against business priorities in the time and budget allowed, especially when the drive to deliver is greater than the risk. 

There are four principles which are typically used to highlight the difference between agile and waterfall (or more traditional) approaches to project management:

1) Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

In an agile environment, how a project is delivered is driven by a team working with end users, focus is on a core deliverable and iterating over time.

Allowing the user to drive the design of a project can make a significant difference to project outcomes.

Agile favours benefits and innovation through collaboration with a particular focus on customer satisfaction, quality, teamwork and effective management.

2) Individuals and interaction over process and tools

Agile emphasises a shift from a control to consensus. Focus is on people achieving benefits through engaged, accountable, high performing teams with focus on sharing data, openness, team communication and learning from feedback.

This often requires behaviour change; those playing management roles become in and of the team both serving and leading to create commitment and accountability to an end goal.

3) Responding to change over following a structured plan

The traditional ‘waterfall’ uses an agreed scope to create a time and resources plan. Agile establishes the resources and time which ultimately drive scope. There will be a number of time and cost delivery windows, sprints, through which the project will evolve.

An agile environment establishes a minimum viable product (MVP); the core project deliverable to trigger the start of a delivery. This is likely to change as the project team realises other opportunities or benefits that become available throughout each sprint.

4) Prototyping/working solutions over comprehensive documentation

The team owns the MVP working together to develop the product; what they will deliver and how they will deliver it.

The delivery team is ‘cocooned’ to focus on the solution to the problem they are dealing with. The team will make constant adjustments to the scope of the product.