October 30, 2018
Something is missing in the Agile manifesto
By: Mirco Hering

As Agilists we keep using the Agile manifesto and are pretty much beyond questioning the exact words on the page. One key phrase is: Working software over comprehensive documentation.

And over the years we had the arguments that this does not mean that there is no documentation, what exactly the definition of working software is and many other aspects of this. Yet I failed to pick up on a very important nuance for all those years.

"We have a broader understanding of Agile now which goes way beyond IT and software development." @MircoHering explains what is missing from the #Agile Manifesto:


The other day I was running an Agile training and someone with less of an IT background called out to me that she disagrees with the statement “working software over comprehensive documentation”. I was shocked initially until she explained that working software means terribly little when no one uses it (for example, due to poor documentation or change communication) or if the software does not solve a business problem.

Wow, how had I not noticed this clear miss before? Of course, we are not about just building software and the Agile manifesto came from people who were thinking about creating software in a better way. But more than a decade after I started to run Agile trainings, why had I never noticed this clear gap in the manifesto for our modern context?

A few weeks earlier I was at an Agile conference in Germany and someone spoke about Agility rather than Agile and pointed out how much of the language in the Agile principles behind the manifesto are software specific (e.g., “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”) How have we not updated this material to be more relevant by changing all the wording to be inclusive of business and other parts of the organization that need to enable success? See below for references to software development in more than half of the principles.

7 out of 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto, which is followed by all Agilists across the globe, reference to software development. Is it still relevant, as Agile expands beyond IT?

Of course, the manifesto has its relevance as a historic document, but whenever we talk about it, it is worthwhile calling out that we do have a broader understanding of Agile now which goes way beyond IT and software development. I for one will call this out more clearly whenever I run training going forward. We are using Agile to solve business problems and creating better software is only a small part of the solution. Thank you, Jane, for calling out a blind spot that I have had for years!

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