Agile Method Brief – Extreme Programming


Quick Summary
A quick overview of Extreme Programming (XP)—an agile software development methodology focused on specific, minimal engineering practices aimed at providing higher quality software and a higher quality of life for the development team.


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What this is

Extreme Programming (XP) is an agile software development methodology focused on a set of values, principles, and practices that its founders believe results in higher quality software and a higher quality of life for the development team. XP is the most prescriptive of the agile methods when it comes to appropriate engineering practices for software development. The key belief of teams practicing XP is that if a team follows a specific minimal set of engineering practices extremely well, they will be much more successful and have much more rewarding software development experiences.


Why it's useful

XP provides a collection of good software development practices. When used with each other and in conjunction with other agile practices for managing work and collaborating, these practices can lead to highly effective software development teams that produce high quality code. XP also enforces the idea of doing only what needs to be done and doing it extremely well.


How to use it

XP is most effective at helping software development teams identify their pain points. Therefore, the best use of XP is to start by understanding your trouble spots, and then apply the appropriate practices to address them. Most XP practices support and reinforce each other, so you will often need to introduce multiple practices at the same time to get the desired effects. For example:

  • If your team is having trouble with outdated or worthless requirements, get with customers and create stories.
  • If you find that you have build and integration problems, start adopting Continuous Integration, which requires you to adopt Ten Minute Build and Test – First Development.
  • If you find you are concerned about the entire team being comfortable with the entire system and that code reviews do not seem to be effective, try using Pair Programming.

Several teams investigating agile practices actually start by organizing their work using a method like Scrum; then, as they mature in their reflection and adaptation approaches, they begin to implement the XP practices to improve their engineering practices.

About the Author

Kent J. McDonald, partner and co-founder of Accelinnova, has more than a decade of experience guiding successful projects and designing business solutions in a variety of industries, including financial services, health insurance, performance marketing, human services, non-profit, and automotive. By addressing common questions about project leadership, Kent demonstrates how agile practices can be applied in organizations, focusing on his "Words To Lead By: Collaborate; Iterate; Serve The Team; Consider Context; Practice Excellence; Reflect And Adapt; Deliver Value."

Kent has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University and an MBA from Kent State University. He is co-founder, and Treasurer of the Agile Project Leadership Network, is a founder of the Agile Iowa Group, and is on the planning committee for the Agile 2007 Conference. He welcomes questions about project leadership with a focus on value at kent@kentmcdonald.com.


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