Agile Canon

The six fundamentals in the Agile Canon are called “The Agile Base Practices.” These practices lie at the heart of any sustained agile effort.

How can you become more agile and more successful? Start by practicing the Agile Base Practices at work or home. By practicing, you will discover their benefits and limitations and may find motivation for learning more.

Why improve agility?

You can likely benefit from agility, in whatever you do. Successful companies have long used “agile management” to power their software development department. Agile management focuses on organizing innovation, as opposed to older methods (“waterfall,” six-sigma, etc.) that focused on organizing manufacturing and routine. But now, automation is driving routine out of everything, with our success growingly dependent innovating faster and bette

How do you become more agile? There are many books, trainers, leaders, and communities that focus on agile management, but some repackage common sense to fool you into wasting your time and money. What distinguishes good agile from bad?

The first step is to understand the basic characteristics of agility. Many will suggest you read the Agile Manifesto, one of the earliest definitions of the field. It talks about software, so it will make some sense to people working in that field, but it provides only analogies for folks in other fields. Furthermore, the field has advanced in the 25 years since the Agile Manifesto was written. And yet, we do not have a better definition that has been widely-accepted.

What is the Agile Canon?

This work, called the Agile Canon, seeks to contribute to a better definition of agility. We will know its utility if it can help us distinguish good agile resources from bad, and if it can help guide us to improve.

My goal is to help you understand those patterns, so you, your team, and your organization can become more successful

Agile practices help us assess, experiment, learn, adapt, and improve. Our most important ambitions—learning new skills, building new businesses, establishing new relationships, and overcoming new challenges—all benefit from agility.

Agile practices produce discoveries, and discoveries produce great creative outcomes. All interesting challenges require creative effort; if we could mechanically apply what others had done, it would eventually bore us. In our present information era, where mechanical effort has been automated, society provides few rewards for doing exactly what others have done. Look around you: almost everyone is creating.

Creativity thrives in uncertainty. Our most fulfilling efforts are initially uncertain, when we don’t know if we can succeed. And the more uncertain success is, the more agile practices help us.

The Agile Canon is a comprehensive set of fundamental agile practices. They have been tested in manufacturing, software development, artistic production, and marketing. You can hire expensive trainers to help you learn field-specific practices, like Scrum. But if you learn field-specific practices without first learning fundamentals, you will quickly find your skills inadequate for unfamiliar situations. By learning agile fundamentals, you can invent suitable field-specific agile practices anytime (and you will benefit more from field-specific training).

Promote the Agile Canon

If you like what you see here, write something about it with a link and publish it, whether in a blog post, a LinkedIn post, FaceBook post, a tweet, or a message. Your endorsement means a lot.

This site and its contents have been my labor of love for a few years. The initial motivation was frustration with many commercial entities promoting flawed Rube Goldberg frameworks as “highly agile.” They profited and left failures in their wake.

A later motivation was wanting to help people deeply understand agility, and practice it daily. We spend hours, days, and years working on projects, raising families, starting companies, building houses, or running political campaigns. Agile can help in all these activities, and lead to greater fulfillment for many people.

I wanted to restore the term “agile” to its original meaning: highly adaptive and highly successful. That meant that I would have to define the term rigorously and fundamentally. It took a couple of years to extract the common principles of field-specific frameworks—like Getting Things Done™, Toyota Production System, Lean Startup, and Scrum—into the Agile Base Practices. I believe their are no comparable efforts, while the Agile Base Patterns represent the heart of all agile frameworks.

Contribute to the Agile Canon

The Agile Canon is a living document with high ambitions. I can’t do it alone. In fact, most of this work has been repeatedly reviewed by friends in different fields.

You can

  • Write about your adoption of these practices as a case-study. What worked and didn’t work? What other general or field-specific practices did you have to develop? Case studies help others understand, and you’ll get credit for that chapter.
  • Write a practice you think is missing, as a stand-alone chapter. We will interact to fit it into the Canon, and you’ll get credit for that chapter. You might want to review How to Read and Write Pattern Languages to help guide your efforts.
  • Consider adopting a field—such as Lean Startup, XP, Getting Things Done—and write practices that leverage the Base Practices. This is pretty ambitious, so I will help and give you credit, of course.

Become a Patron

Write me a note. My motivation comes from helping others. I rarely know when my research and writing project helps others succeed. People are shy or intimidated, but I cherish notes from folks; it gives life meaning. Send me a note of thanks if something went better because you read the Agile Canon.

Consider becoming a patron member at Patreon. Your monthly membership gets you in the inner circle. You can receive early drafts of publications, detailed answers to your questions, and one-on-one sessions to help you meet your challenges.