What is Agile: The Agile Manifesto and the 4 Values

Insights | 31 January 2019

Agile. Agility. What really is agile? What are the values, the philosophy, mindset or agile way of thinking? What agile methods, tools and techniques are available? What are the common agile roles? These are some of the topics we will explore in a series of articles looking at demystifying agile.

Here we look at the Agile Manifesto and the four values that form the basis of the agile mindset.

The Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto was created in 2001 by a group of 17 software practitioners who subsequently named themselves ‘The Agile Alliance’. This group was made up of representatives from a range of disciplines who all recognised the need for an alternative to documentation driven, heavyweight software development processes.

The Manifesto includes a statement of four values and twelve guiding principles.

So, what are the Four Values?

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following plan

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

Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Accessed via agilemanifesto.org

As the Agile Manifesto was created by software experts, it includes terms from the software domain to express its ideas. These ideas are however, applicable to any kind of knowledge project work. Just look beyond the terms and consider how these concepts can apply to other types of work. For example, working software could be replaced with working solutions or product.

Understanding the Four Values

The Manifesto isn’t a set of rules saying that you must do this (A) instead of something else (B). The values reflect intention, focus and emphasis required. It is not about A (e.g. responding to change) replacing B (following a plan), but acknowledging that both are components to be addressed, with focus and emphasis on A rather than B.

Consider these values in a practical project sense:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Projects are about people – people solve problems, people determine scope, people decide the definition of a successful project. People should be the focus in terms of time, energy and passion.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation. The focus here is on delivering the solution, product or service; this should be essence for any project. Documentation is still important, but the intent should be just enough documentation just in time. Remember documentation by itself at the expense of a working solution is not the answer.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. We need to be flexible and accommodating with the customer/end user rather than be fixed and uncooperative. This requires a trusting relationship and often more flexible contract arrangements.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan. Acknowledge things can and will change. We still need to plan but recognise that initial plans were created when little was known about the project, and plans will need to be refined as work progresses.

The Agile Manifesto is simple in overall format and structure, yet there is a lot of wisdom and pragmatism in the four values. In our next article in this series we will explore the twelve principles of the Manifesto.

For more information on Agile or Agile Project Management, please contact us today on 1300 70 13 14.

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