Why “Disciplined” Agile Delivery?

Last week I was in Moscow to do a workshop on DAD.  Askhat Urazbaev, known for starting the first Agile User Group in Russia attended.  He asked some good questions, including “Why is it called the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit?  Are you suggesting that existing agile techniques are not disciplined?”  I have heard this question a lot.  As we describe in our book, clearly existing agile methods such as Scrum and XP require discipline to be effective, in fact more discipline than traditional approaches.  However, this discipline is focused on practices used within the team to improve quality and meet the commitments made to the customer.  For example, it certainly requires discipline to do test-driven development, continuous integration, to optimize team performance, and to recognize and deal with technical debt via refactoring.

In DAD, we support all these practices, but in addition we suggest that discipline needs to extend to other areas such as:

  • giving adequate attention to forming an overall project vision before beginning Construction iterations
  • framing the project within a lifecycle
  • agreeing on appropriate lightweight milestones
  • building enterprise awareness, not just team awareness
  • adopting agile metrics and governance at the enterprise level

This week Scott and I are speaking at Agile East in Orlando and I just attended an excellent talk by Jim Highsmith regarding adaptive leadership on agile projects.  He referred to mainstream agile as “Agile 101” and addressing some of these larger issues as “Mature Agile”.  This is very similar to the concept that we are trying to get across with the term Disciplined.  Mainstream agile methods address the discipline required to deliver value via Construction iterations (or without iterations with lean).  DAD extends that discipline to the full lifecycle and the enterprise.

We have written a number of posts on this blog in the “Discipline” category that you may find interesting which discuss some of these topics in more detail.

Have any Question or Comment?

3 comments on “Why “Disciplined” Agile Delivery?

Hi great and insightful presentation on DAD in Johannesburg, South Africa, does DAD allow for feature screep. When the PO comes begging to include a missed out feature in the current sprint.


Thanks Lazarus. I enjoyed it. It certainly seemed to strike a chord with the audience. DAD, consistent with mainstream agile methods encourages change with regard to remaining work on the work item stack (i.e not work being delivered in the current iteration) if the stakeholders needs and priorities change. We want make sure that what we deliver delivers the highest value and helps to mitigate any outstanding risks. We wouldn’t call this scope creep. We do however encourage managing uncontrolled change. This is part of being a disciplined Product Owner. DAD also discourages “gold plating” of functionality or architecture. Creating software that passes the POs acceptance criteria and then stopping is a good way to avoid this.

Lastly, you do indeed want to discourage a PO from including a missed feature in the current iteration (sprint). The team has committed to a plan at the beginning of the iteration, and injecting new requirements mid-iteration could be used as an excuse for the team to not meet their existing commitment. An exception to this guideline would be if the team has the capacity to deliver the added feature in addition to their existing commitment, and agrees to do so. If not, I would ask the PO to add the new feature to the work item stack.


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