Agile Manifesto is 20 - Happy Birthday 

 8 March 2021

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So it's been 20 years since the cornerstone of the "Manifesto for Agile Software Development" was laid at a ski lodge in Utah: the Agile Manifesto. A lot has happened since then. Even though some agile ideas were thought of decades before, the Manifesto is a milestone. It inspired two decades of software development and has now completely left this framework. So agile is used in every context: in business management, leadership, marketing, hardware, logistics as well as in the daily planning of families. Non-profits, social services and schools are also experimenting with it. Of course, because agility is in many ways a possible answer to the challenges of our days, such as uncertainty and complexity.

All that glitters is not agile

Where there is light, there is also shadow. When I observe the world, the companies I work with and the market that has emerged around Agile, there is also a lot that one can only wonder about, shaking one's head. Sometimes I wonder: is this serious now? Satire? A joke? Only to realize with disillusionment: Oh... sadly, no.

Agile is a hype driven by villages and staff meetings. There is money behind it. A lot of money. A huge market. Inevitably, blossoms of every stripe are created. And just as many answers as definitions to the question: What actually is Agile? - A mindset? A product? Methods? Or tools?

Gurus, dogmas and products

I notice an inner resistance in myself when I encounter the following in the agile space:

  • Agile gurus - agile facts, this way and no other, no alternative. Is that agile? I prefer to stick with physicist, cyberneticist and philosopher Heinz von Foerster: "Truth is the invention of a liar.
  • Dogma - do it unthinkingly because that's how it's done. Period. A Daily MUST last 15 minutes and there MUST be standing while doing it. No talking back. Stand up! Rituals and rules are fine as long as they don't become ends in themselves.
  • Buying agility - people like it simple, preferably in drawers. Fortunately, there are models and products. Brain off, buy. And quite honestly: that can be a good start. But it's fatal if it stays that way. No development. No improvement. No idea outside the model. Loosely based on Watzlawick: if you only have a hammer, all problems are nails and virologists see viruses everywhere.

The only true definition of agility

Here it comes - not. Unfortunately, I don't know the one true definition either. And in my opinion, it is not necessary, because it is in the nature of agile to be dynamic.

Over the years, I have formed my personal view of it and that is, in short: agility is a mindset, an attitude with which a company and also each individual can navigate through this complex, uncertain world and grow in the process. Based on values that are conducive to this: openness, appreciation, courage, responsibility,...

All the tools and frameworks around are best practices that embody that. But they are also best practices of others. And whether they work for you, your team or your company can only be found out through one thing: testing, feedback, reflection, next step. And that's how your own, individual, agile path emerges.

Babumm. That's it. For me. Not for many. Don't take my word for it. Make up your own mind. Your own definition. Step by step. Let yourself be inspired. And maybe one day all the positive, agile values will be so integrated into our everyday life that we won't even need the label "agile" anymore. Then we celebrate something else.

Happy Birthday agile manifesto!

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