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Feedback loops in software development

Hello there! Would you be so kind to take another look at the Agile Manifesto?

For people who wants to avoid an extra click, I've added it below:

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

While most development teams claim to be agile, I always wonder if they really have read the manifesto above.

Let’s start the conversation by talking about element in the list:

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

In most projects I still see a lack of collaboration. Stakeholders are way to busy to talk to the development team so there is little to no user involvement. To compensate their lack of time, they apply the throwing-over-the-wall principle: the business departments write down their requirements  and the software engineers have to implement them.

No room for feedback or discussions.

In the worst case, a functional analyst or proxy product owner sits between the business and the development team and meticulously makes sure, both parties do not talk to each other directly.

This way, many requirements are imposed on the software engineers that have a big impact on the existing design. With a bit of feedback and discussion, most of these cases could be solved easily, but without such a feedback channel, the design deteriorates and we are already on the route towards the ‘big ball of mud’.

We need this feedback loop with the business.

However it would not be fair to only point to the business. We as development teams also deprive us from short feedback loops by applying poor practices, such as having long-running feature branches, too many pull requests, and poor or missing unit tests. All of this deprives the development team of fast feedback.

So I would ask you to create this feedback loop and start applying following strategies:

  1. Gemba walk: Go on a ‘Gemba Walk’. A Gemba Walk is a practice that involves observing and interacting with workers at the place where value is created. The term “Gemba” comes from the Japanese words “Gemba” or “Gembutsu,” which mean “the real place.” Essentially, it refers to going to the actual location where work happens.
  2. Trunk based development: Avoid the temptation to go for long living feature branches, instead focus on frequent, small updates to a central branch, the "trunk" or "main" branch. It is integral to achieving continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD).
  3. Automated Testing: Automate as much testing as possible, including unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests. Automated tests run quickly and provide immediate feedback on the impact of changes, facilitating quicker iterations.
  4. Feedback Mechanisms: Establish mechanisms for collecting and analyzing feedback from users, stakeholders, and other team members. This could include regular retrospectives, user surveys, and code reviews. The insights gained can inform future development efforts.
  5. Pair Programming and Code Reviews: Encourage pair programming and conduct regular code reviews. These practices not only improve code quality but also foster knowledge sharing and early detection of potential issues.
  6. Learning and Improvement: Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Encourage team members to share their learnings, experiment with new technologies or methodologies, and continuously seek ways to improve processes and outcomes.


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