Why Disciplined Agile?

This article explores why you should consider adopting the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit from several points of view:

— The Agile Practitioner

— The Agile Team

— The Agile Coach

— The Executive

Why Should Agile Practitioners Adopt Disciplined Agile?


There are several reasons why an agile practitioner should be interested in the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit:

  1. DA is agnostic and pragmatic. The DA toolkit puts hundreds of practices and techniques from a variety of sources, including Scrum, Spotify, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban, Agile Modeling, SAFe®, Unified Process, DevOps, and many more. DA puts these techniques into context for you in an agnostic and pragmatic manner and provides advice for how to choose the best way of working (WoW) for you given the situation that you face.
  2. Context counts. You are a unique person with a different background, different skills, different priorities, different preferences, and different experiences than your colleagues.  A technique that is effective for someone else may not work well for you, and vice versa.  Because your context is unique, you need to have choices for how you can work; the DA toolkit captures a wide range of choices and puts them into context for you.
  3. Become more effective. An important strategy to becoming more effective as a professional is to experiment with different WoW to see what works well for you in the situation that you face. The DA toolkit provides you with ideas and options that you can experiment with and provides the information you need to identify strategies that are more likely to work for you.  Because DA is agnostic, it’s not limited to the techniques of a single method or framework.  As we like to say, choice is good.
  4. Distinguish yourself from other agile practitioners. Many agile practitioners like to get certified in a single method or framework and then focus on that. But you can do better than that and instead choose to hone your craft by learning a wide range of techniques from a variety of sources.  The DA toolkit is a great starting point to learning about the bigger picture.

Why Should Agile Teams Adopt Disciplined Agile?

There are several reasons why an agile practitioner should adopt the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit:

  1. Disciplined Agile Deliver (DAD) addresses the full agile process. DAD is the portion of the DA toolkit that addresses the software development, or more accurately, the solution delivery, process.  For an agile software development team, DAD does the heavy process lifting for you that methods such as Scrum or SAFe® leave up to you to do.  The implication is that with DAD your team needs to spend less time identifying their way of working (WoW) and can instead focus on providing real value for your stakeholders.
  2. Your team can learn how to break out of method prison.  Ivar Jacobson has coined the term “method prison” to refer to how methods such as Scrum, or frameworks such as SAFe®, limit your WoW through prescribing how they believe your team should work.  These methods can give you a good start, but eventually you reach the limits of whatever they focus on and you need to go beyond their advice.  But other than platitudes claiming that you can easily modify them, they don’t really give you any advice to do so.  The DA toolkit, however, takes a completely different approach and instead provides you with a collection of options and the trade-offs associated with them.  This helps your team to evolve their WoW more effectively so that you can be awesome!
  3. Optimize workflow.  The DA toolkit looks at the whole, organizational picture.  Yes, you may not need to worry about the whole picture, but you need to be enterprise aware enough to know how you fit into that picture so that you can optimize the overall workflow in which you’re involved.   Just as important, DA looks at all aspects of the work.  For example, where Scrum focuses on collaboration and management strategies but not technical ones, the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) portion of the DA toolkit considers all aspects of solution/product development from beginning to end.  This includes collaboration, management, architecture, design, testing, coding, governance, and many more considerations in a coherent manner.  You have a much better chance at optimizing flow, and thereby increasing your effectiveness when you know how it all fits together.

Why Should Agile Coaches Adopt Disciplined Agile?

There are several reasons why an agile coach should be interested in the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit:

  1. Extend your knowledge-base. As an agile coach you can never know about too many potential practices or techniques.  This in turn will enable you to provide better advice to the teams that you’re working with.
  2. DA is agnostic agile. DA isn’t limited to a single method or framework.  Furthermore, it isn’t even limited to agile.  DA brings in ideas from lean sources and traditional sources.  Good ideas are good ideas no matter what the source.
  3. Distinguish yourself from other coaches. There are a lot of people these days claiming to be Agile coaches. Having a solid understanding of the DA toolkit and how to apply it in practice will give you an edge over the majority of coaches who only know Scrum or SAFe®.

Why Should Executives Adopt Disciplined Agile?

There are several reasons why your organization should adopt the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit:

  1. Support for the entire range of complexities faced by your teams, not just team size. Every person, every team, and every organization is unique.  The implication is that you need a toolkit that provides you with choices so that you can tailor, and later evolve, an approach to address the situation that you face in practice. Although prescriptive, one-size-fits-all frameworks such as SAFe® or Nexus may seem like an attractive, easy solution to your process-related needs at first. But the reality is that they don’t address the full range of complexities that you face. Force-fitting them where they don’t apply often does more harm than good.
  2. DA is agnostic agile.  DA adopts pragmatic techniques from a wide range of sources – agile sources, lean sources, and even traditional sources – and does the work of putting them into context so that you don’t have to.  Because DA is agnostic it’s not restricted to the ideas of a single method, or even a single paradigm.  DA provides you with choices and provides lightweight advice for you to choose the techniques that are most appropriate for the situation that you face – better decisions lead to better outcomes.
  3. DA enables you to increase your rate of process improvement. Organizations that are successful at improving their WoW do so via a series of small, experiment-driven improvements: a strategy called Kaizen.  The DA toolkit provides straightforward guidance for identifying potential improvements that are likely to work in the context that you face, enabling your teams to reduce the number of failed experiments and thereby increase their rate of improvement.
  4. Support all types of teams, not just software teams. Your marketing team, your procurement team, your sales team, and many others can all benefit from becoming more agile. An important observation is that where most agile methods or framework focus on teams, typically software development teams, the DA toolkit helps you to optimize your organizational way of working (WoW) too.
  5. Consistent governance across disparate teams. Traditional management teams often become concerned when they hear that every team is unique and will choose and then evolve their own WoW. This can be scary when you realize that you need to guide and govern all of these teams.  Luckily, it’s not only possible but highly desirable to have a light-weight, lean governance strategy in place. In fact, the DA toolkit has process blades for IT Governance and enterprise-level Control that directly addresses lean governance.
  6. Disciplined Agile is the foundation for business agility. We’ve been talking about teams a lot, but it’s not just about teams. It’s really about how your organization can become more competitive, how it can regularly delight your customers, and how it can continue to evolve and improve over time.  It’s really about business agility, and the DA toolkit shows how it all fits together.

For more information about Disciplined Agile please visit this site.

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Scott Ambler

Scott Ambler

Scott is the Vice President, Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute. Scott leads the evolution of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit and is an international keynote speaker. Scott is the (co)-creator of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit as well as the Agile Modeling (AM) and Agile Data (AD) methodologies. He is the (co-)author of several books, including Choose Your WoW!, Refactoring Databases, Agile Modeling, Agile Database Techniques, and The Object Primer 3rd Edition. Scott blogs regularly at ProjectManagement.com and he can be contacted via PMI.org.

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