The Agile Manifesto & Principles

The Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto is a straight forward, short and to-the-point document that you can find here. Again, Google will give you loads of links to it and other peoples interpretations of it but that’s the one link. The original and the best. Here’s what it says:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

I think the meaning of the middle section is pretty clear but the top and tail are often misunderstood. In that first line we acknowledge that we’ll find better ways of developing software by doing it (or helping others do it) and not by reading books, going to seminars and so on. The best way to get better at something is to do it. I think this holds true in anything.

Right at the bottom is another critical piece that is missed or forgotten by lots of people. For example, there’s a common misconception that using an Agile approach means we don’t follow a plan and we make things up as we go along. Agile teams absolutely have plans – they have short terms plans and they have long term plans but those plans can change. If our plans change that’s perfectly fine we just readjust ourselves and carry on.

The Agile Principles

On it’s own, the Agile Manifesto is pretty vague. When I first started out as a ScrumMaster I quickly dismissed it as “a load of hippy shit” and cracked on with software delivery. It wasn’t until much later that I really understood why it was so important. One of the reasons I’d dismissed it was that I hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at the principles that go with it. If we think of the Manifesto as the culture we’re trying to build then the Principles are the behaviour that the culture embodies.

Here they are (you can find them here):

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change forthe customer’s competitive advantage.

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

While the Manifesto can, with a bit of poetic licence be bent to pretty much any situation the Principles are very specific to software engineering – building high performing, self organising teams that delivery valuable, high quality working software at regular intervals.