Product Innovation Trends

Is the Manifesto Agile or is Agile the Manifesto?

Derwyn Harris | September 18, 2014

This is the sixth post in a series examining the changes that have occurred since the Agile Manifesto was published and the implications they have on how we might consider the Manifesto today. Find the first post here.

Taking all of the arguments and mitigating factors for reviewing Agile into account, what does today’s Agile look like? Do the values of the Manifesto still apply? When did Agile become more about process and less about the mindset? How can we merge the intention of the Manifesto with the new way we work? How can we evolve Agile concepts to tackle the challenges of today in a new way? To what degree have we relied on others to define what works for us? How has the world changed, such that the concepts of agile or the methodology should adapt? One idea to consider is the notion that, in 2001, the Agile Manifesto, in attempting to describe one element OVER another (albeit with a disclaimer at the bottom) may have caused some of the confusion. In 2014, we should focus on elements combined with or in partnership with each other.

Tools, Processes, Individuals and Interactions

In 2001, we worked more independently and our workplace interactions were limited by the technology of the times. Waterfall at its core was designed to limit interactions and focus on set, defined goals. Agile’s goal was to encourage teamwork and collaboration, and because technology and communication were still relatively limited, and working closely together was facilitated by teams sitting physically close together. This did not scale well across many organizations and roles such as business analysts and project managers were often left out of this process.

Process and tools meant something very different in 2001. Tools were few and process was very heavily manual with lots of steps and detail. Process focused more on quality than it did on getting the product right. So the product might not be fully effective, but boy did it look nice. The tools didn’t really drive process in the way they do today. Rational was driving Rational Unified Process, but tools were immature in comparison to those that exist to support the process today. This is a perfect example of the Manifesto favoring process over tools.

In 2014, the complexity of products and teams has increased significantly as have the channels we use to communicate. Our understanding and acceptance of interacting through a medium has dramatically changed and continues to change. There is greater collaboration right along the product ‘food chain’ and tools have matured greatly and are integrated and valued more than they were in 2001. In fact, today’s tools and processes are tightly coupled, or combined with, with individuals and interactions. It’s a partnership.

Some argue that the reason agile teams fail is that they did not follow the process strictly enough. This logic goes against the Manifesto. Process is an important consideration. It’s impossible to not have some kind of process. Tools are important and today it’s the combination of tools and process that is most important.

Read the next part in the series, Rethinking the Agile Manifesto: Working Software and Documentation and find me on Twitter or share your thoughts on the Manifesto in the comments below. If you’re interested in further discussion about rethinking the Agile Manifesto for current times, please download my eBook, “A Modern Take on the Agile Manifesto.”


Join our November 13 webinar with guest presenter Diego Lo Giudice, VP and Principal Analyst of Forrester Research and Derwyn Harris of Jama Software, to learn actionable recommendations for successfully scaling Agile adoption across the enterprise. Learn more and register here.