Going Back to the Source: The Agile Manifesto

There are a lot of different ways to implement agile. That is one of its strengths. Agile allows you to create exactly the process that works for your team, company, problem, and client. However, it also gives teams the responsibility to create that process, and that is difficult. Teams typically can’t rely on doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Whatever practices are put in place, be sure that you are true to the agile values and principles. I’ve been interviewing with many companies over the last 6 weeks <shamelessPlug> (I am available for work in the Boston area) </shamelessPlug> and I’ve been surprised at how many people are talking about agile, have not read the manifesto, and think that agile is about sprints, daily meetings, and a lack of big upfront design.

Agile is 4 values and 12 principles. Period. It doesn’t say whether to do upfront work or not, or to work in sprints, or to have backlogs, or to start coding right away. These are techniques that some teams have used based on agile, and others have codified into practices such as scrum, but these practices are like the reflection of the moon in a pond. If the water is choppy, the reflection is broken and unrecognizable. If the water is still, the reflection is very clear. Yet, as alluring as that image may be, it is still not the moon.

If you have never read the manifesto or haven’t in a while, do it now. Really. Go. I’ll wait. It’ll only take a minute.

Back? Great.

One of the values is “Working software over comprehensive documentation”. It doesn’t say don’t create documentation, but place a higher priority on working software over comprehensive documentation. Focus your priority on creating something that works more than an exhaustive description of something to build. Make sure that the documentation the team chooses to create has lasting benefit.

The values are not absolutes, but relative statements. If you adopt practices associated with agile without understanding the conceptual underpinnings, you may find that you are not getting the effect you hoped for, or maybe there are better practices that would support those values better given the unique situation of your team. A team that adopts the practices without incorporating the principles will be like like the moon’s reflection on choppy waters. It will be tough to see a coherent vision of what is being done. A team that chooses its activities based on how the values fit them will be like the reflection in a still pond.

For me, one of the most evocative parts of the manifesto is the last principle, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” That alone, is worth the price of admission.

Please take a moment to rate this post (under the title) and leave your comments. Which elements of the manifesto does your team most embody?

Category(s): agile
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2 Responses to Going Back to the Source: The Agile Manifesto

  1. I’m glad to see someone has posted on this topic. Teams that I am currently involved in throw around the term Agile and assign all sorts of physical trappings and ceremonies to it that were never put forth in the Manifesto. They also like to measure ‘how agile’ they are with one of the many questionnaires that can be found. I wish they would stop concentrating on adding more checkmarks to a list and actually perfect the ones that are currently failing.

  2. Is anyone on here going to take the PMI ACP Agile Exam?

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