Principle-Based Decision Making in Software Development
Principled Decision Making is manifest in the practice of good MVP creation. A powerful MVP design is focused on achieving a goal and rejects effort being expended in any way that doesn’t drive toward that goal. In knowing what work should be performed and what should be rejected, the team applies a common set of principles. In this way, everyone on the team can help decide what work needs to be done without requiring continual consultation from a project lead.
The Agile Manifesto is a set of twelve foundational principles for modern software development. They can form a solid foundation for how a team operates. When applied, they help keep the team in sync.
For example, how can the team know if a sprint was successful? Generically, this is a philosophical question. Specifically, metrics and goals may be articulated. That said, Agile principles can help form the foundation of the answer. To that end, all staff applying the Agile principles will know if a given sprint was a success. A successful sprint must, at its foundation, have the following attributes:
- The customer is satisfied.
- The software works.
- Business people and developers are in sync on the project.
- The team is motivated.
- The team’s pace is maintainable indefinitely.
- The software displays technical excellence.
If any of these attributes are not attained during a sprint, then it wasn’t successful. We can then talk about why, but the foundation of understanding is based on a culture that embraces core Agile principles.
A NOTE ON RETROSPECTIVES
Retrospectives are commonplace within many teams. Whether formal or informal, retrospectives provide a dedicated time to understand what is working (and what is not working) is healthy. Too often, notes are taken, but true learning is not achieved. Use retrospectives to understand the relationship between the team’s outcomes and the team’s principles. If principles were applied, do they need to be adjusted? If they were not applied, what can be done to help the team leverage them in the future? Do new principles need to be authored?
Principles at Scale
For some, principle-based decision-making comes naturally. Others must work at it but are open to learning and self-improvement. Building principle-based decision-making into a team will help team members at all levels perform more effectively. Staying in sync with principles helps a team make consistent decisions. Authoring and refining principles also help encapsulate lessons learned. New team members can quickly begin to apply them to new situations, and organizational learning can truly be leveraged.
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