The agile manifesto : 20 years later

Or Robert C Martin, this uncle you should pay a visit more often.

Where was I 20 years ago at that time when these 17 brillant folks were in a ski station for the Agile Manifesto ? I was part of a small team with great individuals and in fact we were an alternative to IT unable to deliver what we wanted. So we are going to do it ourselves. Without knowing it, we were totally in that agile mindset :  valuing interactions, working software, our collaborations with the users and be able to change because we were in a very fast growing company.

20 years later, it is totally different. Agile is everywhere now and we have all theses practices coming mainly from Scrum and I can see the journey and the level of professionnalisation.

Back to basics (relative and hope killer)

I have discovered this video and his author quiet recently : it is an hour long video and I really had fun time watching it (highly recommended). Robert C Martin (oncle Bob) is one of the 17 pilgrim fathers of Agile and his main message (also in his book clean agile) is “Agile get muddled”. For him, the message was lost because too many people has tried to add more things to Agile. In this video, he wanted to come back to the basics.

The video is separated in two parts. The first part  is really the story in a world dominated by waterfall and how 17 people has changed it with this manifesto. It is clearly a good demonstration of what can do a collective intelligence and how something can become viral. The message was not “Waterfall is bad” but they value interactions, working software, customer collaboration and responding to change more. The relative comparaison is the main message of the manifesto. It does not mean no processes, no documentation, no contract and no plan. It was this relative comparaison they all agree on and their “Aha” moment.

In the second part of the video, Oncle Bob gives an overview of agile with these 2 punchlines : “Hope is the project killer, the purpose of agile is to destroy hope and replace it with data”. And “you don’t do agile so you can go fast, you do agile to know how fast you are going”. You have these two ugly graphics to illustrate that.

Yes this is the heart of agile

Agile is more than that but his intent is to kill the supposed magic with Agile : a scrum master is not Harry Potter and suddenly, you will not go faster and have a baby in one month. Another way to say it is that the level of expectation is often too high with Agile. There is no magic, just good project management.

How about the next 20 years ?

The funny part is that in this video, Oncle Bob mentioned the level of indoctrination caused by Waterfall. It was impossible to think another way of doing software. I think we are living the same period with Agile with tons of pratices, coaches and tranings.

If you look at the 12 principles, you have many of them totally not mastered 20 years later :

  • Technical excellence is not associated with Agile, quick and dirty is
  • Self organizing teams about architecture is still a problem because of the thickness of the technical stack
  • Simplicity, maximizing the amount of work not done is not accepted, we want it all
  • Sustainability : many agile teams look like an hamster in a spinning wheel

And most importantly, the business is still seen as a customer and the technical team as a vendor even when they are working for the same company. Focusing on the true customer and delivering value is the exception not the rule.

I also see some very strong trends like asynchronous communication or companies going 100% remote team that will change a lot the way we are working now. And of course the software craftsmanship is clearly a reaction to the agile :

  • Not only working software, but also well-crafted software
  • Not only responding to change, but also steadily adding value
  • Not only individuals and interactions, but also a community of professionals
  • Not only customer collaboration, but also productive partnerships

Maybe the true meaning of being agile in the next 20 years is like this photo

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