The Agile [Business] Manifesto

Originally created in 2001, the Agile Manifesto defines the values and principles by which Agile software development practices, methods and frameworks operate. It defines what it means to be Agile. However, with the evolution of Agile in the context of business management, the manifesto could use a little refreshing*.

The Values

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

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Delivered outcomes over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. 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.

To be Agile in business means that you need to adapt to your customers changing needs within an ever-changing economy. By building partnerships with your customers while working, testing, and delivering regularly (with the implied emphasis on experimentation), an organisation can quickly take advantage of changes in the market.

The Principles

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable products and services.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
  3. Delivering outcomes for customers frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Customers and delivery teams must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build teams around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a delivery team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Delivered outcomes are the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, delivery teams, and customers should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

These principles help to define the Agile mindset; those key attributes that are most important to Agile practitioners. And while originally written in the context of software engineering, this mindset is critically important in the context of business management. Taking "delivering outcomes" (originally "working software") as an example, the underlying premise is that success is measured by delivering functional products against customer needs. This need not be software; if I am leading a HR team, my success may be measured against the number of successful placements or performance reviews made.

Final Thoughts

Agile has gone beyond the software world. Therefore, removing all reference to software will demonstrate that the manifesto is valid (and important) in non-software contexts.

(and a bonus alternative ending)

Alternatively, you could take the approach of my favourite anti-manifesto; the Manifesto for Half-Arsed Agile Software Development.

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools (and we have mandatory processes and tools to control how those individuals (we prefer the term ‘resources’) interact)
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation (as long as that software is comprehensively documented)
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation (within the boundaries of strict contracts, of course, and subject to rigorous change control)
  4. Responding to change over following a plan (provided a detailed plan is in place to respond to the change and it is followed precisely)

That is, while the items on the left sound nice in theory, we’re an enterprise company, and there’s no way we’re letting go of the items on the right.

* In the most respectful way :-).