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What is the Agile Manifesto?

In February 2001, seventeen (17) individuals – considered to be some of the brightest minds in software engineering and product development – met at a ski resort known as Snowbird in Utah, U.S.A.

Traditional waterfall-style project management and product development processes that had existed since the turn of the 19th century simply could not cope with the complexity, uncertainty and volatility of the 21st century.

Their objective was to agree on a form of project management and product development that would enable software engineers to consistently produce the most valuable work in a way that continuously delighted both customers and stakeholders.

The 4 Agile Values

The Agile Manifesto was created on a foundation of 4 primary values.

  1. Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over Contract Negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

A great deal of their frustration in software engineering came from bureaucracy and the illusion that answers to complex problems and questions could be known upfront. The Agile Manifesto did not seek to make Project Management obsolete, it simply placed higher value on business agility over bureaucracy.

The 12 Agile Principles

Shortly after the Agile Manifesto was created, the 12 principles of “Agile” were created.

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcoming changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Businesspeople and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Agile Evolution

The Agile Manifesto was a statement of what these 17 individuals held to be true at that moment in time. By its very nature, Agile as a concept has evolved a great deal and as such, encompasses so much more than product development and project management in software engineering.

Agile has expanded into ‘business agility’ over the past 20 years and although the language of the Agile Manifesto may have originated in software engineering, it is easy to replace ‘software’ with ‘product’ or any other word that suits your current industry, requirements and environment.

The values and principles remain valuable.

In volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environments it can be near impossible to know the answers up front. Nor can all the variables be known because of the interconnectedness of the 21st century. Answers and solutions must be developed, created and/or discovered.

As such, a value such as ‘responding to change over following a plan’ emphasizes that planning is important, however, it is continuous inspection and adaptation that is required for a team to continuously deliver the highest value work.

Conditions may change a great deal over a 4 year ‘project’ and as such, responding to change and continuous improvement will always trump following a project plan to the letter regardless of what new things we may learn or how variables may change over that period.

Traditional waterfall-style project management insists on prescribed steps and project deliverables whilst Agile frameworks are traditionally lightweight and place emphasis on continuous inspection and adaptation in response to what is discovered, created and known through empirical evidence.

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