Becoming Agile an imperfect world
Greg Smith and Ahmed Sidky
  • May 2009
  • ISBN 9781933988252
  • 408 pages
  • printed in black & white

A thoughtful, practical set of steps ... to become agile.

Mary Poppendieck, author of the Foreword

Agile principles have been a breath of fresh air to many development teams stuck in the middle of a rigid, process-driven environment. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to bring Agile into an existing organization with established people and practices. Becoming Agile shows you practical techniques and strategies to move from your existing process to an Agile process without starting from scratch.

Table of Contents show full




about this book


Part 1 Agile fundamentals and a supporting case study

1. Moving to agile

1.1. Is Agile just another process?

1.2. A paradigm shift from a plan-driven mentality

1.3. Agile and the bottom line

1.4. How this book will help you become more agile

1.5. Key points to remember

1.6. Looking ahead

2. The story of Acme Media

2.1. Case study background and circumstances

2.2. About the Acme Media teams

2.3. About the individuals

2.4. What does it look like when a team “becomes agile”?

2.5. Key points to remember

2.6. Looking ahead

Part 2 Getting started

3. Are you ready for agile?

3.1. What areas will you become more agile in?

3.2. The different flavors of agile

3.3. Create your own flavor to become agile within your constraints

3.4. Key points to remember

3.5. Looking ahead

4. The fitness test: all about readiness assessments

4.1. The importance of readiness assessments

4.2. Reducing the risks of agile adoption using assessments

4.3. Increasing productivity during transitions

4.4. Getting executive buy-in for agile adoption using

readiness assessments === Conducting readiness assessments === Key points === Looking ahead

5. The importance of obtaining executive support

5.1. Why should we pursue agile?

5.2. The cost of migrating

5.3. The risks in migrating

5.4. Rewards for the executives

5.5. Communicating frequently with your executive team

5.6. The role of the sponsor

5.7. Following Acme Media as the company obtains a sponsor

5.8. Key points

5.9. Looking forward

6. Improving buy-in by creating a core team

6.1. Who should be in the core team?

6.2. Choosing the core team at Acme Media

6.3. The kickoff meeting

6.4. Key points

6.5. Looking forward

7. The mindset of an agile leader

7.1. The role of an agile coach

7.2. Agile management: more shepherding, less directing

7.3. Creating a team with an agile mindset

7.4. Key points

7.5. Looking forward

8. Injecting agility into your current process

8.1. Understanding your current process

8.2. Enhancing the existing process

8.3. Key points

8.4. Looking forward

9. Selecting a pilot project

9.1. Characteristics of a good pilot

9.2. Evaluating projects at Acme Media

9.3. Key points

9.4. Looking forward

Part 3 Kicking off

10. Feasibility: is this project viable?

10.1. Feasibility in the big picture

10.2. Selecting a feasibility team

10.3. Introducing the known requirements

to the feasibility team === The go/no go decision === Alternate feasibility paths === Key points === Looking forward

11. Aligning the pilot team with the project

11.1. Identifying the pilot team

11.2. Preparing the pilot team

11.3. Envisioning the product

11.4. The tradeoff matrix

11.5. Project worksheet

11.6. Key points

11.7. Looking forward

Part 4 Populating the product backlog

12. Feature cards: a tool for “just enough” planning

12.1. The structure of a feature card

12.2. A team approach to creating feature cards

12.3. Feature cards compared to…

12.4. Limitations in using feature cards

12.5. Hard-copy cards vs. electronic cards

12.6. Key points

12.7. Looking forward

13. Prioritizing the backlog

13.1. The art of prioritizing, sequencing, and grouping features

13.2. Prioritizing the backlog at Acme Media

13.3. Other ways to prioritize features

13.4. Key points

13.5. Looking forward

14. Estimating at the right level with the right people

14.1. Contrasting traditional and agile estimation techniques

14.2. The importance of whole-team estimation

14.3. A step toward agility: estimating size, not effort

14.4. Estimating story points at Acme Media

14.5. Key points

14.6. Looking forward

Part 5 Enough information for scheduling

15. Release planning: envisioning the overall schedule

15.1. Defining the pieces of a release plan

15.2. Completing the release plan by assigning features

to iterations === Communicating the release plan with a kickoff meeting === Key points === Looking forward

16. Iteration planning: the nitty-gritty details

16.1. Clearly defining the goals: what is “feature complete”?

16.2. Using feature modeling to identify and estimate tasks

16.3. Identifying and estimating tasks

16.4. Determining the hours available in an iteration

16.5. Bringing estimates and capacity

together to complete the plan === Making status visible === Key points === Looking forward

Part 6 Building the product

17. Start your engines: iteration 0

17.1. Initial vision for the architecture

17.2. Completing contracts with third parties

17.3. Preparing environments and support tools

17.4. Obtaining funding

17.5. Finalizing and dedicating the project team

17.6. Cheating: starting the work early

17.7. Key points

17.8. Looking forward

18. Delivering working software

18.1. Supporting the agile principles during development

and testing === Where to begin? === Completing a feature === Key points === Looking forward

19. Testing: did you do it right?

19.1. Unit testing

19.2. Integration testing

19.3. Functional testing

19.4. Exploratory testing

19.5. Test automation

19.6. Key points

19.7. Looking forward

Part 7 Embracing change

20. Adapting: reacting positively to change

20.1. Common reasons for adapting

20.2. Adapting during an iteration

20.3. Three ways Acme Media adapted during its first iteration

20.4. Adapting at the end of an iteration

20.5. How Acme Media adapts during adapt week

20.6. User Acceptance Testing

20.7. Changes in the business climate

20.8. Reviewing the findings and revising the plan for the next iteration

20.9. Key points

20.10. Looking forward

21. Delivery: bringing it all together

21.1. When to release

21.2. Final testing

21.3. Preparing support groups and processes

21.4. Communication and training

21.5. Ready to release

21.6. Enough planning; let’s deploy

21.7. Key points

21.8. Looking forward

22. The retrospective: working together to improve

22.1. Setting expectations for the retrospective

22.2. Time to digest: a survey in advance

22.3. Conducting the retrospective meeting

22.4. What to expect during the meeting

22.5. Converting the feedback into action

22.6. Key points

22.7. Looking forward

Part 8 Moving forward

23. Extending the new process across your company

23.1. Common findings after a pilot

23.2. What the Acme Media team learned from their pilot

23.3. Next steps

23.4. Key points

23.5. Conclusion

Appendix A: : Readiness assessment tables by practice

Appendix B: : Agile concepts from a phase perspective

Appendix C: : Agile process overview in text

Appendix D: : Example: determining process and document needs for a project

Appendix E: : Quantitative feedback on the SAMI


© 2014 Manning Publications Co.

About the book

Many books discuss Agile from a theoretical or academic perspective. Becoming Agile takes a different approach and focuses on explaining Agile from a ground-level point-of-view. Author Greg Smith, a certified ScrumMaster with dozens of Agile projects under his belt, presents Agile principles in the context of a case study that flows throughout the book.

Becoming Agile focuses on the importance of adapting Agile principles to the realities of your environment. While Agile purists have often discouraged a "partial-Agile" approach, the reality is that in many shops a "purist" approach simply isn't a viable option. Over the last few years, Agile authorities have begun to discover that the best deployments of Agile are often customized to the specific situation of a given company.

As well, Becoming Agile addresses the cultural realities of deploying Agile and how to deal with the needs of executives, managers, and the development team during migration. The author discusses employee motivation and establishing incentives that reward support of Agile techniques.

Becoming Agile will show you how to create a custom Agile process that supports the realities of your environment. The process will minimize risk as you transition to Agile iteratively, allowing time for your culture and processes to acclimate to Agile principles.

What's inside

  • How to migrate to Agile
  • How to get your team to buy into the change
  • How to scale and sustain your new Agile process
  • How to create an Agile process that works for your company
  • How to use Agile in special situations
  • How to iteratively build up your Agile process and culture

About the authors

Greg Smith is a certified ScrumMaster and a Senior Project Manager. Greg is also an instructor of Agile Project Management at Bellevue Community College. Greg has over 20 years of experience as a development manager, project manager, business analyst, and product manager. He has worked for large conglomerates, tiny start-ups, and medium size companies including: Philips Electronics, R.R. Donnelley, Oh Boy! Oberto, and the Seattle Times New Media group. Greg helps companies create a custom agile process that supports the realities of their environment. Greg's focus has been on iteratively migrating a company to agile and actively involving the development team in the process. This background has given him insight into what it takes to sustain an agile culture and process over time.

Dr. Ahmed Sidky guides organizations during their transition to agile software development. His research includes a value-based agile measurement index, known as the Sidky Agile Measurement Index, and a process framework for the adoption of agile practices. Dr. Sidky developed Dr. Agile (, an online readiness assessment tool that helps guide organizations aspiring to adopt agile practices. He has worked as a software developer at some of the largest software firms in the Middle East and holds a Masters degree in Software Engineering from Virginia Tech (USA) with a research focus on Requirements Engineering and a doctorate in Agile Software Development Methodologies and Process Improvement. Dr. Sidky is a frequent speaker at international agile conferences.

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Makes agility rhyme with reality.

Valentin Crettaz, Consulthys

This book is a <i>necessity</i> for teams looking to become agile...

Randy Miller, Microsoft

The first book I can give to anyone on an agile team, regardless of their role.

Paul King, ASERT

A 5-star guide.

Robert Dempsey, Atlantic Dominion Solutions