Another Agile conference has come and gone, and as usual, there was plenty to learn in Nashville this year (besides packing walking shoes for the Gaylord).

The biggest piece I took away from last week might be how we view the Agile Manifesto. After the SAFe kerfuffle, maybe it’s time we think of the manifesto in a different light.

Specifically, what if the manifesto wasn’t the manifesto? What if it was the Agile Constitution? Why? Well, does the constitution say anything about driving at 16 or drinking at 21? Is there anywhere in the constitution that says the BAC limit for driving is .08? No, the constitution just gives us a framework.

Similarly, do the words Scrum, XP, Lean, Kanban, Story Points, Daily Stand-up or any activities we hold dear specifically laid out in the 12 principles? Nope! Let’s re-imagine the manifesto as a set of guiding principles vs. some iron-clad document.

As Agile grows and spreads new frameworks and ideas will naturally evolve. There are too many smart people using Agile principles for this not to happen. I don’t expect every new idea to be accepted with open arms, but we should apply a uniform evaluation to these new frameworks. I am not advocating a “supreme court” of agile constitution scholars passing judgment on all new ideas, but I do think it will be easier for the community to accept new ideas if we simply view the manifesto as guiding principles vs concrete rules. If the new ideas meet a preponderance of agile principles, maybe it is something we should try. I don’t expect every new idea to be perfect day one, and if we are applying principle 12 then we should be inspecting and adapting these ideas over time. Let’s take what is good in these new ideas and evolve them to make them better vs. wholesale trashing the idea because we don’t like one or two components of the idea.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s Agile.

Related video: How the Agile Manifesto For Agile Software Development Was Born, and Why You Should Care

Join the Discussion

    • Tristan Vogler

      I completely agree. All too often the knee-jerk reaction to a set of principles, guidelines, even recommendations is to take them as hard, strict rules. It is much to easy for people to ignore the motivation or the ‘spirit’ of things.

      On another note, I wasn’t able to be in Nashville and was curious, what SAFe kerfuffle? (great word, by the way)

    • Brian Watson

      Not to rehash the kerfuffle too much but you can read these blogs and form your own opinion:

      • Tristan

        @Brian, I appreciate the links. I had not read Anderson’s blog but had seen Schwaber’s previously. Both thoughtful articles.

        I suppose I misinterpreted something and thought there may have been a specific incident that occurred that I had not heard about yet.

        Thanks again!

    • Joe Tindal

      I have been watching the evolution of SAFe, and I have read the process and watched the webinars. I agree with Ken about the prescriptive nature of the process. Scrum and Kanban offer self-organized business process design, where SAFe squashes some of that. Every business has different strategies and requirements, so one complete process will be a difficult fit unless the businesses change their strategies to fit the process. I have noticed people who are super supportive of SAFe tend to be highly structural personality types (mostly PMPs) and don’t seem to understand the linkage between self-organization and creativity. Companies that don’t need highly creative products made by highly motivated people, can utilize a prescriptive process. But companies who value the creativity of their workforce will likely stay with (or will adopt) true agile methods that foster minimal sets of standards and rules. Most people who work in high-tech companies are very intelligent, so in the words of Ken, “let the team decide” the best ways to get things done.

    • Mike McLaughlin

      Thanks for the links, Brian. Really enjoyed reading what Ken Schwaber and others have to say about SAFe. Interesting to look at how similar it is to RUP; a more formal, prescriptive methodology.

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