I've never liked the Agile Manifesto. I'm not blaming the authors because I know it must have been a nightmare trying to come to a consensus, and the manifesto has served a useful purpose bringing like-minded people together under a single brand. It is slightly ironic that the wording hasn't changed in 10 years, but there you go. I'm not brave enough to propose an alternative yet. In this article, I'm just going to explain where I think the logic is faulty.
Here is the wording of the manifesto:
It doesn't distinguish agile from "slapdash"
The aim of the manifesto seems to be to try and distinguish agile from waterfall. Unfortunately, agile's worst enemy isn't waterfall but the "we don't write documentation, so we're agile" brigade. And the manifesto doesn't defend agile very well against this threat. Perhaps there's something in the twelve principles but who on earth reads them? Certainly not the slapdash developers claiming to be agile.
It mixes up goals and solutions
"We value working software over comprehensive documentation". OK, but surely whatever software development method you select, working software is the ultimate goal, isn't it? Some people believe that by writing comprehensive documentation you are more likely to produce working software. That's part of their solution. But you can't go round comparing goals with solutions. It's nonsensical. Perhaps what the manifesto authors wanted to convey was that "the code is the documentation", or something along those lines, but couldn't agree to write it, so plumped for the goal as their solution. That's cheating!
The dilemmas are easy to solve
The manifesto poses dilemmas and then tries to position agile at a certain point in each trade-off continuum. But why are we compromising? If both sides have value (as the manifesto plainly says), why don't we find solutions that resolve the conflicts? Let's take each one in turn:
I don't know whether the value of documentation is to do with maintainability, improving clarity or good governance. The point I'm trying to make is that there does not have to be any compromise between those needs and agile methods.
So what is agile then?
I'm not sure. Please can you give me feedback on this post and your ideas. Leave a comment, or blog about it, or tweet me (@davidp99). Thanks.