If you’re a newbie on an Agile team, one of the first things you’ll be asked to do is to look up the Agile Manifesto. This document is the Bible for Agile practitioners and embodies the thinking behind Agile software development.
Agile software development follows a set of flexible, fluid practices that embrace change and maximize the value of a product being developed. While originally conceptualized for the IT industry, Agile has proven to be effective in every other domain too, ranging from manufacturing to marketing, healthcare to retail, and many more.
What is the Agile Manifesto all about, and how did it change the face of the software development industry? Our article gets into the details!
Originally called the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, the Agile Manifesto is a document that lays down 4 core values and 12 guiding principles that should inform Agile practices. These values and principles underpin the various frameworks that fall under the Agile umbrella, including Scrum, Lean, Kanban and XP, among many others.
Over the past two decades, these principles and values have stayed the same. They are not rules or mandates but can be considered as the philosophy and reasoning behind the Agile culture and mindset.
Through the 1990s, the software industry was a hotbed of innovation, with an unprecedented pace of technological advancement, and new ideas being churned out almost daily. When software teams followed the traditional waterfall ways of working, quite often by the time a product was developed it would already be rendered obsolete— as a newer technology would have taken its place! This led to a lot of frustration among software developers and architects, who felt that the old ways of building software weren’t working anymore.
These developers started experimenting with new ideas, and found smart new ways to work with small, self-organizing teams to deliver incremental value in iterations. They found that when there was close collaboration between teams, instead of the traditional ways of working in isolated silos, the products delivered were of higher quality, suited industry needs, and met end-user expectations.
These revolutionary ideas started to spread in an organic way and were proven by different teams to work much better than the processes that had been followed till then. In 2001, history was created when a group of 17 software developers got together on a ski resort in Snowbird, Utah, and chalked out the commonalities between these new methods that they had crafted. They wrote down the 4 Agile Values that together form the foundation of Agile.
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was the result of these collaborations. Over the next few months, these 17 authors expanded on the 4 Agile values and came up with 12 Agile principles, which were added to the Manifesto. In the years that followed, the adoption of these values and principles became mainstream, and Agile became the new buzzword in software development circles.
With good reason, too! Over the years, the State of Agile Reports have mapped the incredible pace of Agile adoption across worldwide enterprises. The 15th State of Agile Report talks about a “steady increase in the number of organizations adopting agile practices and processes, both inside Development and within non-IT groups including Finance, Human Resources, and Marketing.” Over half of respondents (52%) claimed that a majority or all of their company’s teams have adopted Agile.
The 4 Agile Values state that Agile practitioners should value:
The 12 principles articulated in the Agile Manifesto, which are self-explanatory, are as follows:
Agile enthusiasts say that the 4 values outlined in the Manifesto are meant to create a culture where people’s needs are at the centre of everything the team does.
There is a shunning of traditional tools, processes and unnecessary documentation. By interacting with people, brainstorming and innovating, and fostering transparency and collaboration, the team can create products that are relevant to market needs and create customer delight.
The 12 Agile principles also serve to create and encourage a work environment that is focused on the customer and on aligning with the needs of the market as well as business objectives. Work processes are designed to embrace change and can course correct and pivot in response to evolving user needs and the dynamics of the market.
Rather than being a set of mandates, Agile can be a mindset.
If you have an Agile mindset, it means that you’re someone who is willing to innovate and adapt to change, and can work in a small, self-organizing team to steadily deliver customer value.
You shun traditional bureaucracy and hierarchical ways of working, which often lead of teams working in isolated silos. Instead, you love to collaborate and brainstorm with your team and are focused on maximizing product quality.
While Agile has been welcomed with open arms by the software industry and many other industries, and has been largely proven to work, there are many people who claim that Agile has been overhyped.
The Agile approach has not worked for many companies and is probably not the best way of working for all projects. Agile, in fact, does not suit every organization, and there are many instances where the traditional waterfall approach has been proven to give better results.
However, there are many companies that claim that they are following Agile in its entirety— while they have only adopted a few of its processes and have not embraced the Agile mindset and underlying philosophy. Unless an Agile transformation is carried out at all levels of the organization and everyone is completely on board the new ways of working, failure is a likely result.
A Last Word
The Agile Manifesto is the written document that outlines the thinking of the founders of Agile. While the values and principles are at the core of this philosophy, what really drives Agile is the way in which they are applied and the sensibilities of Agile teams who follow these processes and practices.
In the end, what is most important is to understand the Agile mindset and follow the Agile frameworks and workflows that make sense for your project. Applied the right way, Agile offers significant benefits and helps organizations to stay ahead even in the most competitive markets.