Agile software experts tend to describe phase gate processes as obsolete or inherently “waterfall” and therefore evil — but this is more a reflection of how poorly the Agile coach understands the nature of product development outside of software. In the hardware world and in many other places, phase gates are ubiquitous because they work.
In this series so far, I’ve discussed the principles of Agile, and how they express fundamental truths about good process management that apply broadly: cut batch sizes, work in a cadence, focus on delivering value early, strive for technical excellence.
I’ve also discussed some things that hardware teams need to do differently in order to act in accordance with a principle that manifests differently in hardware than in software.
This week, I’ll share five things that are completely missing from Agile Software Development — but essential for Agile Hardware development.
I’ve started working on my next book, When Agile Gets Physical: How to Adapt Agile Principles to Accelerate Hardware Development, with my long-time colleague, Kathy Iberle. Today, the information available is mostly written by Agile software experts — and it shows. They mostly take a “Just Use Agile” approach that does not account for the real differences between hardware development and software development.
In this video presentation about Agile for Hardware, Katherine Radeka and Kathy Iberle share their experiences with using Agile principles to improve the flow of work for physical products. Along the way, they’ve learned that the principles of Agile are universal but the practices and tools are specific to the problem being solved.
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. — Agile Principle #12
This is the final Agile principle and, on the surface, it wraps up the principles in a nice package — closing with encouragement for teams to make their own decisions about how to work more effectively.
This seems both simple and obvious yet it’s one of the most challenging tools in the Agile toolbox.