Happy 20th Anniversary Agile Manifesto!
March 04, 2021

Richard Knaster
Digital.ai

In the 1990s, responding to the many challenges of waterfall processes, some lighter-weight and more iterative development methods emerged. On February 11, 2001, many thought leaders of these "framework" came together in Snowbird, Utah. While there were differences of opinion on the specific merits of one method over another, the attendees agreed that their shared values and beliefs dwarfed the differences. The result was a Manifesto for Agile Software Development — a turning point that clarified the new approach and started to bring the benefits of these innovative methods to the whole development industry.

This brief document that launched this massive movement is now 20 years old. Since then, not one word has changed. So, it's fair to ask, given all the advancements in the last 20 years, is the Agile Manifesto still relevant? Or should it be treated like a historical document that has long since served its purpose?

In the years since the manifesto was first published, agile has been adopted by domains outside of software development, including hardware systems, infrastructure, operations, and support. More recently, business teams outside of technology have also embraced agile principles for planning and executing their work.

For example, agile is being quickly adopted by Marketing, People Operations and Finance. It's also being applied in the medical and healthcare industries, resulting in breakthrough technologies, therapeutics and vaccines, thankfully!

It's clear that the Agile Manifesto remains as relevant today as ever, perhaps even more so. We're fortunate to have it, and it plays a vital role in how we think, behave and work.

We've also seen that the Agile Manifesto does indeed scale and can be applied beyond just small teams to teams-of-agile teams and more. However, many principles require increased emphasis at scale, while others need a more expanded perspective.

For example, Principle #6, the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to a development team is a face-to-face conversation. In today's pandemic world, we need to expand our thinking of what it means to be face-to-face and ensure that we are valuing "people and interactions" by providing the tools people need to collaborate better such as Zoom, electronic white boards and more.

The combination of values and principles in the manifesto creates a framework for what the Snowbird attendees believed was the essence of Agile. The industry is better for the extraordinary business and personal benefits provided by this new way of thinking and working. We are grateful for it!

One more thing: While the elegance and beauty of the manifesto was its simplicity, we are continuously "uncovering new and better ways," and all of this learning cannot be contained in a single document. But that's ok, we now have new and better ways of conveying knowledge than we did 20 years ago. What's important is that we approach life with a growth vs. a fixed mindset and continuously learn and share this knowledge with others. The free and unencumbered exchange of knowledge and openness to new ideas is how we need to embrace agile and its manifesto for the next 20 years.

Richard Knaster is Chief Scientist and VP at Digital.ai
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