Innovation Trends

Rethinking the Agile Manifesto: Working Software and Documentation

This is the seventh 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.

In 2001 the notion was that documentation should be replaced by working software. Of course, back then ‘software’ was a simpler concept. Certainly some was very complex, but overall, software products have grown greatly in complexity. The mindset at the time often was to document everything upfront, then go build, the result was that teams built the wrong thing.

Alistair Cockburn, signer of the Manifesto, has spoken about the word “comprehensive” and the decision to use it. According to Cockburn, this software term was highly debated. The creators didn’t want people to think that documentation in and of itself was unnecessary because they did believe it was important. The intent was to call out exhaustive documentation as overkill.

Today we have more complex software. We also have realities of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and continuous delivery. The idea of working software is much more of a reality. This does not change the importance of documentation. What does change is the idea of the word ‘document.’ A white board, sticky notes, wiki, or collaboration software, these are all documentation. This is a critical and necessary aspect of the process. The ability to respond to change, to interact, in fact everything the Agile Manifesto believes in relates to communication and collaboration around something – the ideas, stories, epics, and decisions written and made everyday.

Read the next post in this series, “Rethinking the Agile Manifesto: Customer Collaboration and Contract Negotiation.”