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Breaking Down the Agile Manifesto

The first step in developing an Agile culture

15 October 2014

Today Agile frameworks are being implemented by a wide variety of organizations. They often begin applying frameworks such as Scrum without fully integrating the principles behind the Agile Manifesto into their culture. Without a culture that embraces Agile, the application of any framework will not reach its full potential. The first step in building an Agile culture is understanding the Agile Manifesto. It reads:

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.

Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Since its development in 2001, thousands of software professionals have signed the Manifesto and hundreds of books have been written about it. The manifesto has fundamentally changed the way many teams write software. That's a lot, for 68 words written by 17 software professionals over two days at a ski resort.

To build a culture around the Manifesto, we must first explore the meaning behind those 68 words. So let's follow Lewis Carroll's advice and "Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop."


Good Agile software is not a solo endeavor. It requires close collaboration at every level, from development teams to project teams to organizations to the Agile community as a whole. We are in this together and rely on each other to be successful.

are uncovering

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to developing software. No one has all the answers; in fact, many answers are yet to be discovered. Striving to find those answers is an important part of the journey. Explore, try new things, keep what works, and eliminate what doesn't.

better ways of developing software

We should not be bound by perfect but always strive for better. Inspect and adapt, look for small improvements, and make them quickly. Perfect is the enemy of good.

by doing it

Build software. The best way to find out if something will work is to try it. Failure is always an option. Better software techniques come from experience. You never know if it will work until you try it.

and helping others do it.

Share your knowledge, let others learn from your mistakes and successes. Team up with others so you can learn from them. Mentor others and grow the knowledge of your team and your community.

Through this work we have come to value:

The values of the Manifesto come from hard-won experience building software. They were not developed in an ivory tower; they grew out of the trenches of technology.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Bob Martin described Agile as "a set of values based on trust and respect for each other and promoting organizational models based on people, collaboration, and building the types of organizational communities in which we would want to work." The main focus of any Agile team should be on the people working together to build the software, and ensuring healthy, productive interactions between those people. Every process or tool that you choose to use should support and enable those interactions between the people working together to develop software. If a tool or process is getting in the way of those interactions, serious consideration should go into why the team is using it and whether there is a better alternative.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

The main goal of a software team is to create software for people to actually use. The goal is not to produce a 200-page spec document that will not be maintained. Document what needs to be documented but strive to make sure that you identify what is important. Document only the important items, because the more documentation you create, the less it is read, and it is too easy to lose the important stuff in a sea of minutia.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Bring your stakeholders into the team engage them. Be flexible. Concentrate on creating collaborative relationships that result in high-quality, usable software that meets the customer's needs. Maintain a structure that protects your resources, but not at the expense of your relationships. Don't sweat the small stuff, and avoid falling into the trap of finger pointing.

Responding to change over following a plan

Agile thrives in situations where there are a number of unknowns or quickly changing requirements. Do not avoid change -- embrace it. Expect change and look at it as an opportunity to create something better than you had planned.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Don't toss out all of the tools of traditional project management and development if they work for your team. However, don't let the tools get in the way of building strong relationships with your customers, or the ultimate goal of your project.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.9 (9 ratings)


Deepak Joshi, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 10/16/2014 9:11:08 AM
Nicely described the essence of Agile Manifesto! This is the reason I have kept a printout at my work place so with me all my team can go through it regularly.
Thanks for such a good description.

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