Reading the Agile Manifesto
I’ve been uncovering better ways of becoming agile by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work I’ve come to read the manifesto from different angles.
Hint: These are interpretations of an inspiring work of art created by a courageous group of people. Neither of my two interpretations replaces the original. The second one is much closer to my heart, and the way I work now, than the first.
Right Supports Left
One is this: focus on the common pattern in the four statements. The things on the right could be helpful in supporting the things on the left. What we actually need is on the left. It’s (ideally) the outcome of the things on the right. I’m rephrasing to make this idea more clear:
We need processes and tools if they help individuals to better interact.
We need comprehensive documentation if it helps us to better develop working and valuable software.
We need a plan if it helps us to better respond to change.
We need a contract if it helps us to better collaborate with our customers.
This feels a bit binary, single-minded and too much focused on the one way we’ve been doing things in the past. It limits our thinking about alternative options. That document was written in 2001 based on experience in another century. Sensing how people might have felt when they wrote this, I assume that happiness felt much farther away than misery, at the time. I know that many people who’ve read it since, feel that way.
A Compassionate Point Of View
Now, when I read the four statements from a compassionate point of view, having worked with hundreds of organisations where people cling to documentation, plans, contracts, processes and roles, I have a more holistic perspective. All of the things on the right are commonly used for three purposes:
- To hide lies, to avoid trust,
- To cover somebody’s ass (make sure it’s not my fault), and
- To defer acknowledgement of uncertainty.
The basic emotion behind all of these strategies is fear.
The Alternative We Wish For
My current reading of the manifesto statements is this. They are all examples for one simple, and daring, wish:
“We want an environment where we do not need to tell lies. We want to be able to communicate openly and authentically at work so that we can be effective.”
Effective communication is scary for us. It requires us to be open and vulnerable at a level we don’t feel comfortable at. No context in our society or education supports us in learning that. To build effective organisations we need to start facing that, and do something about it.
I will. I am not afraid. And I trust us to be able to let go of the fear.