Counterpoint: Does the Agile Manifesto Have the Wrong Focus? Part One

April 13, 2010

Years ago, a hardware technician friend of mine called me at work and asked, “How does a programmer change a light bulb?”

“I don’t know… How?” I asked, knowing full well that some type of leg-pulling was coming. And it did.

“They hold the light bulb up to the socket and the whole world revolves around them!” my friend said, completely pleased with himself.

Kai Gilb’s blog post Part 1 of 7: Completely wrong Focus: Agile & Scrum is not focused on delivering values to Stakeholders for a minimum or a reasonable cost takes aim at the Agile Manifesto by taking the position that my hardware friend was doing with me in his jest.

Kai states, “All the ideas in the Agile manifesto are 'solutions' to what is seen as convenient for developers.” And that, “Agile is far too centered around the developer. The world is seen from the eyes of the developer, the world revolves around the developer.”

Hmmm... Two individuals using the same wording: The world revolving around the developer. Is this coincidence or conspiracy? Maybe, just maybe, there is a kernel of truth here. Developers do spend a LOT of time developing and tinkering (we call it learning).

And when it comes to software development projects, developers are the ones everyone looks to in order to define what it will take to produce software. The is only natural, since developers are the experts in software development, after all.

I wasn’t present when the Agile Manifesto was created, but my understanding is that it was in fact created by developers, in response to the challenges and frustrations experienced by far too many developers. The goal was to come up with a better way of producing software, one that met the needs of the business and reflected the realities of software development projects.

Kudos to those who challenged themselves and delivered the Agile Manifesto! We are all benefiting from the efforts of these pioneers.

Back to Kai’s issue; I concede that the Agile Manifesto is developer-centric. Get a death march project or two under our belt, and you’ll want to exercise some control over your work too! The Agile Manifesto is important as a historical document, it provides the foundational principles and values that Agile supports.

In the spirit of “standing on the shoulders of giants,” I view the Agile Manifesto as the beginning, a great start that we have been building upon ever since. There has been a lot of practical experience gained since the Agile Manifesto was created, along with plenty of thinking and discussion.

In short, there has been a whole lot progress, and a growing body of work is being published about Agile and Scrum. The verbiage of the Agile Manifesto may strike you as developer-centric, but look beyond the Agile Manifesto to gain a greater insight about the state of Agile development today.

I’ll continue examining Part 1 of Kai’s concerns in my next post.

Kai’s blog is an excellent opportunity to play point/counterpoint with respect to Agile and Scrum. Kai will make his points, and I will make mine. I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to determine what is right for you.