By Ian Mitchell
“Everybody has their manifesto; let them talk their language, come to the people, and the people will decide” — Prakash Raj
So where were you between February the 11th and 13th, 2001?
Well, since you appear to have difficulty remembering, let me narrow things down. There is an excellent chance you were not at the Snowbird ski resort in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. You were not there because you were not invited. Darn it though, neither was I. The nonexistent wound, inflicted by no-one, can remain the most fresh.
Snowbird. Where “seventeen people met to talk, ski, relax, and try to find common ground”. The result of this buzz session was, of course, the Agile ‘Software Development’ Manifesto. Can we perhaps see into the minds of those who were there? In the published history of the meeting, they claim to have sought consensus, and that they tried to reach a position they could all agree on. Yet as we have subsequently discovered, agility meant — or came to mean — something different to each of them. This is inevitable. Each attendee was a different person who brought their own knowledge and experiences. The Agile Manifesto is the work of unique individuals who met in a particular place, and it is an artifact which has withstood the test of time. We are left to decode its inner mysteries, like an ancient stone circle. What was really going through the minds of the builders? Did each perceive the same thing when they created it, in their mind’s eye?
To what extent, for example, is the Manifesto a reflex of “lean thinking”? Along with methods of round-trip development, it was in a sort of ascendancy at the time. There’s a clear synergy between lean and agile practice, and attempts to tease them apart can often seem contrived and artificial. Then again, we know they don’t describe quite the same philosophy or way-of-working.
Interestingly, in the published history of the Agile Manifesto, the word “lean” does not appear even once. Could it be that the authors were influenced by a “lean” gestalt which they saw no reason to explicitly acknowledge? Let’s walk through the twelve principles of the Manifesto, and see if we can examine each of them through a lean lens.
- “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software”. The longer customers have to wait for value to be delivered, the more waste will be incurred in terms of lost time and lost opportunity. The business environment will continue to change, and disruptive competitors may seize the initiative. If a system is allowed to diverge from an evolving and emergent set of requirements, the more likely it is to be viewed as defective when it is finally released. Lean practice is based on delivering the right value, to the right place, at the right time, and at the right level of quality to satisfy customer needs. Requirements are a moving target, and the only thing that genuinely allows us …read more
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