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Guerrilla-style agile software development

Say the word “agile” and people immediately have a reaction. Those in favor of it see it as an efficient way to create software that users actually want. Those against it see it as “cowboy” or rogue — developers doing whatever they want.

If you work at a company where people like the processes they have for developing software and push back against new ideas, needless to say it can be difficult implementing agile development practices. But it can be done if you make subtle changes and don’t even mention the word agile until you have to.

David Christiansen explained in his recent Webcast “How to introduce agile in a waterfall environment” how he used guerrilla-style tactics to introduce agile practices on his projects. Little by little he changed things until it was obvious that they were doing agile development, and then he had to admit he was using those techniques. But at that point, he could show management that agile development worked. He could show them proven success.

David said that usually it’s IT that pushes back when talking about agile — managers, testers, and sometimes developers. It isn’t the users or stakeholders. They don’t care what you do as long as you give them software that works the way they want it to, he said.

You need to be careful when following David’s secret strategy, as you don’t want to be fired for disobeying your boss. If you ask if you can do agile development and you’re told no, you probably shouldn’t go ahead and do it. But if you can show them first how agile practices work, then you’re likely to get more support. As David said, “Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness later than to ask for permission first.”

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