Agile Alliance: Wordsmithing a Mission

Wordsmithing the Agile Alliance Mission Statement

Agile Alliance supports people who explore and apply Agile values, principles, and practices to make building software solutions more effective, humane, and sustainable. We share our passion to deliver software better every day.

The board members of Agile Alliance have updated the mission statement of the organisation to reflect our current view of why the organisation exists.

The Alliance was founded in 2001 by the original authors of the Agile Manifesto as a non-profit organisation tasked with spreading the philosophy embodied in the values and principles of the Manifesto into the world of software development. Over the past 15 years, Agile approaches have been adopted more and more widely and they will soon be the predominant approach to building software, at least nominally. There is a long way to go, but Agile thinking has definitely made a difference in how software is produced and deployed around the world.

Why “building software solutions”?

As Agile ideas have taken hold in software development they have impacted other areas of work in organisations. On a regular basis the Alliance is challenged about the focus on software, both in the wording of the manifesto and in our mission statement. The current revision of the mission statement was triggered at least in part by the interviews with aspirant board members, all of whom pointed out the need to extend our reach beyond software into other areas of business.

We discussed this at length and came to the conclusion that we need to address a scope that is actually achievable and that fits with the intent of the original founders. We also agreed that “software is eating the world” and that almost every organisation today is actually in the software business, irrespective of the product or service they provide. By keeping our focus on software we feel that there is a vast audience who we are able to serve. We are deliberately including all those who make up the value chain for software development, from end users whose needs we are identifying and hopefully fulfilling, to managers and leaders in organisations that implement software-intensive systems to members of engineering teams who design, write, test or otherwise produce code, to hardware designers who build the infrastructure the software runs on or over, to talent management professionals who are responsible for finding the right members for teams, to accountants who must amortise the cost of software effectively. This wide and varied group are the target audience for the Alliance.

Commercial software needs to be built to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. The alliance supports the business of building software solutions, not the hobby of writing code for the fun of it. We hope that hobbyists are doing things in a way that they enjoy the activity and encourage them to apply Agile thinking to their efforts, but our focus is on the professional software community.

Not all software solutions are coded from scratch – a lot of software building today is about configuring packages, implementing modules, using APIs, generating code from models, deploying and consuming services. We embrace all these approaches to building software as well as writing code from scratch.

We have chosen to exclude from our direct focus areas that can (and frequently do today) apply Agile thinking to their work, such as marketing (there is an Agile Marketing movement which is doing great things), and legal (although many legal firms are adopting Agile ideas in their workplaces). We support and encourage these and other applications of Agile thinking, but they are not our focus.

Explore and apply?

The preamble to the Manifesto states that “we are uncovering better ways of building software by doing it and helping others do it”.

The Manifesto was written at a point in time, and the authors knew that they didn’t have all the answers then and we certainly don’t believe we have all the answers today. Software development is a constantly evolving profession – new ideas are emerging all the time and existing ideas are being applied in new ways. Constantly uncovering, constantly learning and adapting to the ever changing demands and taking advantage of innovations such as cloud computing, Internet of things, DevOps, Kanban in it’s various forms and who knows what’s coming next.

Values, principles, and practices

The Values and Principles of the Manifesto are the stable foundation on which the Alliance is based. There are regular discussions about updating the values and principles to bring them up to date. The position of the Alliance is that we take the Manifesto as originally crafted as our underlying philosophy, we don’t aim to update it. Alistair Cockburn wrote a piece recently in which he pointed out the contributions of the original signatories. In his article he says “we agreed at the time that we won’t update it, so don’t ask us to”.

This doesn’t mean that new philosophies can’t or shouldn’t be allowed to emerge – we hope they do, and that the underlying thinking is influenced by the ideas embodied in the Manifesto. The Alliance is a big tent – we truly do embrace all who agree with the underlying Values and Principles.

The practices are constantly evolving and adapting to the ever-changing landscape that is the world of building software. Please explore, apply, and share new ideas to help make building software better, and to build better software.

Effective, humane, and sustainable

At its core the Manifesto is focused on people, value and teamwork. In his original article describing the authoring of the Manifesto Jim Highsmith wrote about the importance of a people-centric view of creative knowledge work, how the ideas behind the manifesto were in many ways a reaction to the mechanistic, factory-worker view of development that was prevalent at the end of the last century which was dehumanising, ineffective, and had failure rates which were appalling.

We want building software to be effective – the products that are built need to do their jobs well, and the process used to build software needs to be effective for all involved.

Knowledge work requires creative thinking, and knowledge workers in the 21st century are motivated by different drivers from the factory workers of the last millennium. Dan Pink talks about the three motivators of autonomy, mastery and purpose – humane workplaces are not just good for the workers who populate them; they result in better return for our organisations through creating products people love that meet the real needs of our customers. Customer delight consistently results in higher return on investment.

Sustainable organisations aim to be around for the long term, generating value for stakeholders, ensuring the world we populate is looked after, and providing great workplaces that people want to be associated with. Ethics matter!

We share our passion to deliver software better every day

This sentence summarises the rest – we want people to be passionate about their work, we want software to be better than it often has been in the past, we want the process of delivery of software to be better today than it was yesterday, and to be even better tomorrow.

(As an aside the discussion around this sentence resulted in the only board vote about a comma that I have ever participated in. We debated and voted on “software better, every day” or “software better every day”. We left the comma off so as to deliberately include the two possible meanings in the sentence.)

So here you have it – 1,285 words to explain two sentences. I hope that this gives you a feel for the depth of concern and feeling of responsibility the Board has for the work of Agile Alliance.

We truly do share our passion to deliver software better every day.

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They may not represent the opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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Shane Hastie

Shane Hastie

Over the last 35+ years Shane has been a practitioner and leader of developers, testers, trainers, project managers and business analysts, helping teams to deliver results that align with overall business objectives. Before joining ICAgile he spent 15 years as a professional trainer, coach and consultant specialising in Agile practices, business analysis, project management, requirements, testing and methodologies for SoftEd in Australia, New Zealand and around the world. He spent nearly five years with ICAgile…

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