Friday, August 14, 2009

What's missing from the Agile manifesto?

Continuing the reposting of my posts from Borland's Agile Transformations blog:

Coincidental to my fellow blogger Dale's attendance and coverage of the Agile Development Practices conference, iTunes downloaded an interesting podcast into my StickyMinds conferences subscription. It was for a short Q&A with Brian Marick about his keynote address at the conference with the intriguing title "Seven Years Later: What the Agile Manifesto Left Out."

Questioning the Manifesto? Isn't this, like tugging on Superman's cape, one of the things you just don't do? Well, since Brian 's one of the original thirteen signatories, he's in a good position to offer
commentary on it. The full text of his keynote is found on his blog, but the thing I took from
the interview was a main weakness in the Manifesto is not describing the internal values necessary for Agile to be successful, as opposed to the external values to make the business and dev team interaction successful. In the text, he lists the internal values as Courage, Working Software, Ease, Being Reactive, Fast Feedback, Naivete', Visibility to the point of Exhibitionism, and Joy.

One line from the written text that jumps out at me is "There are always tradeoffs between the values". To me, that means not just between the items on the left and right on each line of the original Manifesto, but between the lines. While this is not missing from the Manifesto, more people need an appreciation for this and to think about when it makes sense to trade off one against another. And that it is ok to do this. Everything can't be priority #1 at all times.

Two things I think are missing from the Manifesto are a recognition that it should change over time and laying out the means for such change. It seems remarkable that a document putting "Responding to change" as one of the top four values for software development would not see value in acknowledging that it, too, might need to change along the line. Brian touches on this in the interview and sees it as remarkable enough that the thirteen signatories could come together and come to agreement once. The odds of getting this to happen more than once are just too low, in his opinion, to believe it could happen. Still, that disappoints me.

Interestingly, a difference between the interview and the written text is that in the interview he mentions Skill and Discipline, not just as values but as ones that are lacking (in the case of skill) and more necessary (in the case of discipline) to make Agile work. I think these are very good points and are often overlooked. Do some of the values, such as fast feedback, visibility and working software combined with courage (to be honest about them and not fudge them for appearance's sake),
require discipline? A different set, like working software + ease, might require strong skills?

I'd be interested in hearing Brian's take on the relationships between skill and discipline and his other values. I was slightly disappointed that there wasn't more discussion of these two in the text of his talk since I'd say those are two big gaps in the internal workings of teams.

I leave readers with a different set of questions:

* Are we doing enough to recognize what skills gaps there are in our teams?
* How are we addressing those rather than making the team relearn all of the ideas that really experienced folks know?
* Are we sending enough developers out to conferences or other events with peers?
* Are teams putting up information radiators to reflect to themselves how disciplined they are?
* What do you think is missing from the Manifesto?

Originally posted by Michael Maham on November 26, 2008 at 09:04 AM at

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