Does the Agile Manifesto need an update?

Agile ManifestoSince the manifesto for agile software development hasn’t changed since it’s publication in 2001, the question arises if the Agile Manifesto needs an update. I think it should be updated to reflect what has been accomplished with agile and to state what the software industry needs now. 

What the agile manifesto has accomplished

My experience is that the agile manifesto has contributed to the way that software is being developed. More attention is given to product features, and the value that those features can give to customers.

The agile manifesto has also helped many organizations to learn how to work in small cycles. When I ran my first project, I decided to deliver the product in increments because we needed early feedback from our customer. This approach helped the team to deliver a better product. That was in the early 90’s, there was no agile at that time (I used ideas from EVO from Tom Gilb).

The agile manifesto increased the popularity of delivering in increments. Delivery cycles have become shorter, from years to months, weeks, days, and in some organizations minutes with continuous delivery.

More and more organizations are implementing teams for developing software. Although many teams still have a long way to go to become truly self-organized, this is a great improvement over people working in projects using a command and control management style.

Understanding customer needs

Although the software industry has improved, there’s still work to be done. My opinion is that customer understanding is lagging behind. The focus in many organizations is often too much on the product, and too little on what customers want to accomplish.

I still see very little collaboration between customers and development teams as suggested by the agile manifesto, also collaboration between the development team and product owners is often insufficient.

Delivering valuable software and services

I propose to change the agile manifesto by replacing “Working Software” with “Valuable Software and Services”. Software is a means to an end. Often it’s part of a product or a service, it’s the whole that brings value, not just the software.

By the way, value is in the eye of the beholder, being the customers and stakeholders. Remember what I mentioned about collaborating with customers, you need this to know what to built and to verify if you’ve built the right stuff.

Reflect, learn and adapt

Also I would like to see the need to reflect, learn and adapt mentioned explicitly in the manifesto values. Responding to change is not enough, also stating the need for inspect and adapt in the 12th (last!) principle doesn’t do it.

You need to make time to see how things are going, recognize good things and things to improve, and take action. This is key, so it needs to be in the agile values.

Agile retrospectives are one way to do this, Kanban and Kaizen also provide solution on how to continuously improve your way of working.

Continuous improvement matters. Organizations working agile should have continuous improvement engrained in their way of working. The agile manifesto has to make clear that reflecting and learning are essential to deliver good products and services.

Survey on Agile Manifesto 2.0

There’s an ongoing investigation to find out if the Agile Manifesto is still relevant as it was defined 15 years ago. Kamlesh Ravlani, Agile / Lean Coach and Scrum Trainer made a Survey on Agile Manifesto 2.0 in which he is asking the Agile community if the manifesto needs an update. I’ve submitted my suggestions. If you have ideas on how the agile manifesto can be improved, or if you think it should remain the same, then please fill in the survey.

What do you think? Does the Agile Manifesto need an update?

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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