Sharing What's Worked: Patterns for Adopting Agile Practices

| by Deborah Hartmann Preuss Follow 0 Followers on Nov 06, 2006. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |
Organizations considering Agile software development approaches need to address issues of Agile adoption - and adaptation.  In his first InfoQ article, Adopting Agile Development Practices: Using Patterns to Share our Experiences, Amr Elssamadisy tells how participants in two OpenSpace sessions at XPday Montreal 2006 focused on the dynamics of adoption, rather than the structure resulting from adoption, to compile Agile practice adoption patterns.  This is part of an effort intended to help those new to Agile answer these questions: "Where do I start?", "What specific practices should I adopt?", "How can I adopt incrementally?" and "Where can I expect pitfalls?"

This article gives a glimpse into the larger effort of documenting agile adoption experiences in pattern format.  The list of potential patterns is long, so Elssamadisy has grouped them into "clusters" of practices: this article focuses particularly on two patterns from the "Test-First Development (TDD)" cluster.

Several times this year groups of software practitioners came together and shared their experiences in adopting agile software practices.  They then documented their successes and failures in adopting each of these practices, in pattern format.  They used patterns to aggregate multiple experiences instead of 'war-stories' that usually don't transfer easily to specific projects, and because patterns are not prescriptive yet still give specific information on how to solve a particular problem.  Patterns are an excellent vehicle to share expert information within context.

In the article, Ellsamadisy answers the question: "So, how does this help me adopt agile practices?"

With the building blocks at hand, that is: Smells, Practices, and Clusters of practices, it becomes possible to tailor your agile adoption in a step-wise and iterative manner.
  1. Start with an evaluation of the status quo - what is being done well and what needs improvement?
  2. Map the areas that need improvement to one or more Smells.
  3. Prioritize the Smells and pull the first one off the list.
  4. Check the Practice Patterns that address the Smell in (3). Read them and read their related clusters.
  5. Depending on your environment, choose one or more of the patterns in (4) - maybe even an entire cluster. Use the advice in the patterns chosen to start adopting those practices.
  6. Periodically evaluate that the Smell in (3) is indeed getting addressed by the practice being adopted. Adapt the practices for your particular environment.
  7. Go back to (1) until perfection is reached.

Adoption should be iterative and always goal-oriented. The goal is to alleviate the Smells currently present by adopting and adapting the applicable agile practices. The patterns are starting points. Use them with a modicum of disrespect. As you gain experience, adapt the practices to fit your needs.

At the end of the article, Elssamadisy invites readers to get involved, pointing out that unless practitioners take the time to write out these clusters of patterns, they cannot be used to help adopters.  All of the work in progress will be made available on the wiki and will appear here on InfoQ in further articles documenting the Smells, Clusters of Practices, and more Practices of Agile Practice Adoption.

Read the InfoQ article: Adopting Agile Development Practices: Using Patterns to Share our Experiences.

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