Keen astronomers will be aware that we live on a planet orbiting a small star on an outer arm of a spiral galaxy consisting of many stars. At the centre of our galaxy, as is the case with most galaxies, lies a supermassive black hole. Many millions of times the mass of our sun but invisible, the black hole cannot be seen but its gravitational pull affects everything in the galaxy. Eventually, everything in the galaxy will be pulled together to become one unimaginably big black hole.

There are many Agile methods and you might consider them stars in the galaxy of work management methods. Some might say the brightest star in that galaxy is Scrum, as it is by far the most popular of all agile methods. What is less well-known is that it wasn’t always the brightest star.

Around the turn of the last century, Extreme Programming (XP) was considered the number one Agile method. However, with the rise of Scrum and other more attractively named, and more easily adopted frameworks, XP has progressively lost visibility.

With the exception, perhaps, of the most hardcore programmers, there has been a growing reluctance to adopt Extreme Programming. The somewhat intense name and terminologies are cited as possible reasons for this.

That said, there is a degree of irony; as more and more people become adept at using Scrum (and other methods) to manage their workloads, they naturally look toward improving their technical capabilities too. To do this and perhaps without even realising it, they turn towards the XP practices.

  • Many Scrum teams, for example, have their Daily Scrum as a stand-up meeting. Stand-up meetings are an XP practice, there is no mention of it in the Scrum Guide.
  • Many Agile teams use User Stories to communicate their requirements. In Scrum they are commonly used as Product Backlog Items. Kanban practitioners often use them as work items. User Stories are an XP technical practice. Tell me where you see User Stories in the Scrum Guide?
  • You will also notice many teams practicing Release Planning, especially those in multi-team organisations, most scaled Agile techniques recommend it. Release Planning is one of the XP planning games.
  • Virtually all development teams now practice Continuous Integration in some shape or form. Again, a technical practice from XP.

The Agile Manifesto and Principles highlight the value of Working Software but the definition of Working Software comes from XP: “Software that passes customer-defined tests in a production (or production-like) environment.” In Scrum we know this as “Done”.

The XP practice of Automated Acceptance Testing stands out as the ideal way of demonstrating that your software is quickly and repeatedly passing customer-defined tests. It may well even be the biggest benefit of adopting Extreme Programming.

Although largely unrecognised and uncredited, the XP methodology is actually ingrained across many aspects of all Agile frameworks, and its practices are used far more commonly and widely than most people realise. In that sense, XP could be considered the black hole at the centre of the Agile universe. Unseen but gently pulling everyone towards itself, often without them even knowing it.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re using Agile in some capacity, particularly for software development, then you’re probably already using some XP practices (whether you realise it, or not). So, if you’re looking to formalise your understanding and use of those practices, there are a number of training courses out there that can help with this.

I’ve been using and teaching XP since 2001, and as agil8’s more technically-focused trainer, the courses I deliver are largely based on using XP techniques.

To explore these courses further (along with upcoming dates and locations) then simply use the respective links below.