The Principles Behind Disciplined Agile

Principles of the Disciplined Agile Framework

What does it mean to be disciplined? To be disciplined is to do the things that you know are good for you, things that usually require hard work and perseverance. It requires discipline to regularly delight your customers. It takes discipline for teams to become awesome. It requires discipline for leaders to ensure that their people have a safe environment to work in. It takes discipline to recognize that you need to tailor your approach for the context that you face, and to evolve your approach as the situation evolves. It takes discipline to recognize that you are part of a larger organization, that you should do what’s best for the enterprise and not just what’s convenient for you. It requires discipline to evolve and optimize your overall workflow, and it requires discipline to realize that you have many choices regarding how you work and organize yourselves, so you should choose accordingly.

This article summarizes the seven primary principles behind the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit. These principles are:

  1. Delight Customers – We delight our customers when our products and services not only fulfill their needs and expectations but surpass them.
  2. Be Awesome – Awesome teams are built around motivated individuals who are given the environment and support required to fulfill their objectives.
  3. Pragmatism – Let’s be as effective as we can be, and that may mean we go beyond being just agile.
  4. Context Counts – Every person, every team, and every organization is unique.  Let’s find and evolve an effective strategy given the situation we actually face.
  5. Choice is Good – Different contexts require different strategies. Teams need to be able to own their own process and to experiment to discover what works in practice for them given the situation that they face. Having process options to choose from, and understanding the trade-offs of those options, enables you to home in on better options sooner.
  6. Optimize Flow – Your organization is a complex adaptive system (CAS) of interacting teams and groups that individually evolve continuously and affect each other as they do. To succeed you must ensure that these teams are well aligned, remained well aligned, and better yet improve their alignment over time.
  7. Enterprise Awareness – When people are enterprise aware they are motivated to consider the overall needs of their organization, to ensure that what they’re doing contributes positively to the goals of the organization and not just to the sub-optimal goals of their team.

How Do These Principles Relate to the Manifesto?

They’re complementary. In 2010 we began developing the Disciplined Agile Manifesto, an update to the Agile Manifesto for Software Development that extended it to reflect the realities faced by modern enterprises.  The seven principles above have evolved out of the DA Manifesto and have been influenced by both Joshua Kerievsky’s Modern Agile principles and Alistair Cockburn’s Heart of Agile.


This article is excerpted from Chapter 2 of the book An Executive’s Guide to Disciplined Agile: Winning the Race to Business Agility.

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