Mike Cohn placed a challenge on his blog for people to describe a Waterfallacy – “A waterfallacy is a mistaken belief about agile that has been caused by prolonged exposure to the waterfall process.”  This is to promote his new book – Succeeding with Agile.  I have found it very useful in my Agile work and would like you to consider ordering it now to succeed with Agile 😉

I have run up against this waterfallacy many times. Here are some of the things I have heard:

  • “Agile is all about coding, not about documenting.”
  • “The Agile manifesto says documentation is not important.”
  • “How can you deliver software without a requirements document?”

The assertion is that there is little or no documentation in Agile and the implication is that Agile cannot possibly work.

How to overcome these statements?  I talk about 4 things:

  1. Agile manifesto – what it actually says
  2. Why Agile values face to face communication
  3. How Agile documentation works and how Agile teams document a lot
  4. If you are using Scrum, it’s up to the organization to define what is right.

Agile Values: Working software over comprehensive documentation

In the Agile Manifesto we talk about valuing working software over comprehensive documentation. So, working software comes first since that is what will make our businesses succeed. The manifesto does not say to avoid documentation entirely – that’s a mis-read!

Agile Principle: Use face to face communication

One of the key Agile Principles is:

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

This signals that people should talk to each other rather than communicating through documents.  Does it say not to document?  No!

Agile Documentation – just the right amount

Agile teams tend to use wikis as a lightweight and searchable knowledge base. They document things that they think are important or useful. It may be text, photos, diagrams. For more info on how to make this work, check out this article on Agile Modeling.

Most of the Agile teams I work with produce a lot more useful documentation than more traditional teams I have worked on.

Scrum lets the organization decide how much to document

If you use Scrum, let me remind you that Scrum is completely silent on documentation. It’s up to the organization to decide how much and what types of documentation need to be completed every Sprint.

Usually people are convinced at this point and say – “Wow!  I didn’t know that.”