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InfoQ Interview: Ron Jeffries on Running, Tested Features

Ron Jeffries, well-known independent consultant in XP and Agile methods, has been developing software longer than most people have been alive.  Ron was the on-site coach for the original XP project, authored Extreme Programming Adventures in C#, and co-authored Extreme Programming Installed, and collaborated on and taught Object Mentor's popular XP Immersion course. He's had more time than most to observe the patterns underlying Agility... and he thinks that "Running, Tested Features" may just be the key to software agility.  In fact, he suggests that tracking "RTF" is the essential element of Agility, from which all other practices and activities necessarily follow. Not content to sit and chat, in this InfoQ interview recorded at Agile2006, Jeffries took to the whiteboard to illustrate the value that a team's customers gain from this simple metric.

It's not a new idea, in fact,  Alistair Cockburn riffed on Ron's theme in "Are iterations hazardous to your project?"  Surprisingly, that article starts out with:
Iterations, user stories, and velocity are the very heart of agile development, are they not? If you have those three items in place, then you are by definition doing agile, and on your way to project success. Right?

The answer is: Wrong
Cockburn went on to talk about "Agile Machismo" (hint: it's not a good thing :-) and then came around to his point of agreement with Jeffries: "The center of agile development is to deliver running, tested features to users and collect feedback." **

One viewer, who found the video quite useful, commented:
...he explains that the fundamental value of agile is that you it produces information that managers can use to make better decisions, rather than resorting to hitting the programmers with sticks and holding their feet to the fire.
(this latter, Jeffries noted, has not been observed to work very well.)

Like many Agile practices: "Running, Tested Features" may be simple, "but it ain't easy" - in this case Jeffries noted that while TDD is an obvious essential for RTF, a less visible but equally essential practice for realising the benefits offered by RTF is what XP calls "Simple Design."  Without this, design debt accrues and the pace of work degrades.  View the interview for an animated introduction to Jeffries' vision for serious Agility.

Related news: Presentation: Ken Schwaber on Code Quality as a Corporate Asset.

** Correction 2007-02-14: We mistakenly suggested that Ron's idea might be derived from Alistair's post. In fact, going full circle, Alistair had in turn referenced Ron's original 2004 "Running Tested Features"  article, called A Metric Leading to Agility.  This has now been corrected, above. Apologies for the confusion! [Deb]

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