The Agile Onion – 4 Fundamental Aspects of the Agile Universe

My Agile Onion (in a bottling jar)

Whenever I give an overview of Agile, e.g., in classes or to clients, I use an onion to describe it. My Agile Onion consists of a core, has two layers, and it rests in a bottling jar. The Agile Onion represents the Agile Developer Skills, Scrum, Kanban and Agile Management Innovations. For me, the Agile Onion represents the 4 fundamental aspects of the Agile universe out there.

At the core of my Agile Onion are the Agile Developer Skills (ADS). ADS are what developers in an Agile development team should seek, foster and eventually master. These skills are essential on a technical level to deliver software continuously and frequently. Since “Working software is the primary measure of progress” (see Principles behind the Agile Manifesto), and ADS are the key to working software, ADS is what Agile devs should invest in.

Why an onion?” you ask? Well, onions have layers! (At this point of my explanation, a client of mine said: “Like an ogre?” At first I didn’t know what he meant, but when I finally got it, I had a very good laugh :) )

The first layer of my Agile Onion is Scrum. Scrum connects the development team with the management, and therefore is the first layer of my Agile Onion. It’s a mature, well understood Agile method to create and incrementally shape processes, which leads to great products.

The second layer of my Agile Onion is Kanban. Kanban is the prevailing change method in the Agile world. It has a wide range of use, from a personal level (i.e., Personal Kanban) to a business level (i.e., Portfolio Kanban). Since it’s a great (also my preferred) method to let Scrum teams work together, I think it’s a good second layer of this onion.

I wasn’t the one who came up with the idea of an Agile Onion. In 2010, I watched a panel discussion at the LESS conference in Helsinki, Finland. One of the panelists was Ken Power. During that panel discussion he mentioned this Agile Onion with ADS, Scrum, and Kanban. Thanks Ken, for introducing me to the Agile Onion. I took the liberty to enhance it: I put it into a bottling jar.

The bottling jar in which the Agile Onion rests, represents the Agile Management Innovations (AMI). Imagine an organisation with great developers, all of whom are skilled with ADS, working together in teams and with management using Scrum, and all those teams coordinate their work and catalyse the change with Kanban. But they would be missing something: the organisational environment. AMIs are taking care of the organisational environment, for example with things like slack, the pull principle, and several more areas where an organisation could improve their management.

So, my Agile Onion (in a bottling jar) consists of these parts:

  • Agile Developer Skills (the core of the onion)
  • Scrum (first layer of the onion)
  • Kanban (second layer of the onion)
  • Agile Management Innovations (bottling jar which contains the onion)

I think, if an Agile newbie would cover all of these aspects, he’d get a pretty good overview of the Agile universe.

This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About Bernd Schiffer

Bernd Schiffer is consultant, trainer and coach for Agile Software Development in Melbourne, Australia. Learn more about him on his personal homepage, have a look at his company Bold Mover, or contact him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, XING or LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.