The second of the four points in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development is that we value “Working software over comprehensive documentation”. This is not to say that you don’t need documentation, but it does bring me to my Scrumism in this blog – working software is your best offense.
A note here – when I say “working software”, I’m not talking about a proof of concept or a demo. You may want to do those sorts of things as part of what you do on your project, but what I’m really referring to releasable, usable, “done, done, done” software that is ready to be in the customer’s hands. Developed, tested, documented, and whatever else needs to be done to be releasable.
Organizations sometimes act like they have an immune system, where ideas that are out of step with their status quo trigger antibodies to “identify and neutralize foreign objects” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibody). So if you are trying out this new thing called “agile”, how do you answer the objections that can be raised by those who are unsure, skeptical, or even hostile about the subject?
Working software is your best offense. Your first sprint (or two) may be stinky, but you have *something to show* when you are done. You’ve taken your first steps in your assertions about what is valuable to build, and you actually built the first sliver of it. Now you have something you can show when you are talking with stakeholders and figuring out what is on the right track and what isn’t cutting it. Sometimes I see a management attitude of “OK, I see something happening, we’ll let your project live a while longer.” It is sort of like that line from the movie The Princess Bride where the Dread Pirate Roberts is quoted as saying “Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” Of course, it worked out for Westley, and if your organization can let the PO and the development team do their thing (and they are doing it right), it will work out for you as well.