Perspectives on the Agile Manifesto

Added to Mindset

Just about everyone who has looked into Agile software development is familiar with the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (Agile Manifesto) and the Principles behind the Manifesto. You can’t attend a presentation or class about Agile without a slide about the Agile Manifesto getting thrown up on the screen or being mentioned by the speaker.

The Agile Manifesto is an expression of the shared values that drove the creation of the Agile community, and Agile Alliance. An initiative of The Alliance has endeavored to make the Agile Manifesto even more familiar globally by having it translated into, at current count, 68 different languages. The initiative was created in part to make sure the ideas of the manifesto don’t get, pardon the pun, lost in translation.

There seems to be something different with the Agile Manifesto when compared to all the other manifestos that have something to do with software and business. What makes this manifesto different? Looking at the Agile Manifesto from a variety of perspectives might provide some insight.

Perspectives of the Authors

Fortunately, a few of the original authors shared their perspectives shortly after writing the manifesto. Those include an overview by Jim Highsmith that is posted on the Agile Manifesto site, as well as other perspectives from Alistair Cockburn, Martin Fowler, Bob Martin, and Dave Thomas.

Since continuous learning from experience is such a key part to Agile (“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.”) it’s instructive to see how the original authors' perspectives of the Agile Manifesto and Agile in general has changed since the Agile Manifesto was written.

At Agile2011, 15 of the original 17 authors of the Agile Manifesto joined each other on stage to comment on a variety of topics including whether they would change the Manifesto (they wouldn’t), what was their biggest disappointment with Agile at that point (people who say they are doing Agile but really aren’t), and what other words were considered (we could have been the Hummingbird Alliance). Take a look at the video of that discussion to hear what they had to say (you can skip the first minute or two to avoid the Back to the Future parody).

Perspectives of Others

Perspectives on the Agile Manifesto are not restricted to the original authors.

The last few Agile20XX conferences have had a track covering Agile foundations. As part of that track in 2015 and 2016, Jim Newkirk gave an introduction to Agile where he talked about how Agile emerged and how the Agile Manifesto impacts the way you can do software development.

At the Agile Europe Conference in 2016, Stephen Denning was on a panel discussion with Ray Arell, Hendrik Esser, Steve Holyer, and Todd Little. Stephen shared that discussion in a couple of posts: What’s Missing in the Agile Manifesto - Mindset and Should We Change the Agile Manifesto? This is a look at the state of Agile 15 years after the writing of the Agile Manifesto and 5 years after the big park bench mentioned above. It’s interesting to compare the observations between those two discussions.

Perspective Based on the Authors

A final perspective on the Agile Manifesto is that the group of people who wrote it was quite homogeneous, specifically from a gender perspective.

It’s important to acknowledge that all the manifesto authors were men.

That does not diminish the fact that a revolutionary idea coming out of the Agile Manifesto is that software is built by and for people, and we should pay attention to how those people interact and learn.

Agile Alliance was formed to support people who explore and apply Agile values, principles, and practices to make building software solutions more effective, humane, and sustainable.

We can’t change who was involved in past events. We can take steps to make sure that all people who want to explore and apply Agile values, principles, and practices are able to do so. Some need encouragement. Some need help to overcome barriers that others don’t face.

The Women in Agile Initiative strives to do that by providing encouragement and support for women looking to become more active in the Agile community.

Putting it All in Perspective

The Agile Manifesto has been described as a historical document — something that communicates enduring ideas and is a product of its time. Many people would like to change it, but those changes would only make it reflect their times and their contexts. The core ideas do not change, and the Agile Manifesto does not need to change in order for people to apply those core ideas to their context. That is one of the unstated ideas of the Agile Manifesto itself.

Download the Manifesto

If you would like a copy of the Agile Manifesto to download and print out, we have one for you here.


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