The Art of Agile Development

By James Shore (2003)

As a programmer you must be able to produce customer value, from scratch, in a single week.

Managers, rather than telling the team what to do, let the team tell you what they need you to do to help them succeed.

Ward Cunningham:

It was a turning point in my programming career when I realized that I didn’t have to win every argument.

My Notes

Various interlocking ideas and practices: trust, co-location, pair programming, TDD, customer involvement, stand-ups, coding standards, refactoring, iterative development, emergent design, sprint demos, risk management, spike stories, technical debt, simplicity, time-boxing…

You don’t get to pick and choose any combination. E.g., emergent design depends on refactoring which depends on TDD, which in many environments will require trust.


Remember: forming, storming, norming, performing.

You can help by letting people know that disagreement is normal and acceptable. Find ways to make it safe to disagree.

💡 Earning trust outside the team: show some hustle, deliver on promises, manage problems, respect customer goals, promote the team, be honest.

If failure doesn’t hurt, then it’s OK to fail. You’ll be free to experiment and take risks.

Focus on Value

Create stories about your customers’s needs, not your plans to fulfil those needs.


Simplicity is the art of maximising the work not done.

Avoid anticipating needs. Do not speculate. Concentrate on the requirements.

The plan can change every week. Unless you’re implementing the feature that very week, don’t put the hook in.

💡 Build requirements, design/architecture and implementation iteratively.

It’s easier to expand an architecture than it is to simplify one that’s too ambitious.


💡 Delay planning until the last responsible moment (because priorities change).

Define future work in tiered horizons (the nearer the work, the more comprehensively).

Programmers estimate, customers prioritise.

Make planning a conversation.

Typical sprint planning: demo (30 minutes), retrospective (1 hour), planning (up to 4 hours).

Don’t finish iterations on Friday (work shouldn’t slip into the weekend, and a last-minute rush doesn’t work well on a Friday).


Not sure if this is from this book: sprints, velocity, etc avoid the situation where:

☝️ Also, with padding and Parkinson’s Law, it’s possible work is delivered later than necessary. Also, remember this benefit of iterative development: development can be halted at any time, even before finishing everything in the backlog, once the customer’s needs are met.


The point is not to release all the time but enable you to release at any time.

Each story should be releasable on its own.

Done Done

💡 You get no points unless a story is completely done.

Team should create their own definition of done. E.g., coded, tested, designed/refactored, integrated, migrations prepared, reviewed, fixed, accepted.

Coding Standards

An exercise in building consensus.

Naming, formatting class and function length, error-handling, logging, etc.

Collective Code Ownership

Nobody owns any particular parts of code and quality is everyone’s responsibility.

Every week your design should be better than it was the week before.


Explain why our work is important.

Be specific but not prescriptive.

Technical Debt

A good rule of thumb is to spend 10% of an iteration on technical debt.

[Technical debt] has a greater impact on team productivity than any other factor does. Make code quality a priority and your velocity will improve dramatically.

Research Time

Half a day per sprint.

If you’re concerned about people goofing off, provide lunch the next day and ask that people share what they’ve done in informal peer discussion. This is a good way to share knowledge anyway.