26 Jun 2023
The Agile landscape pre-Manifesto
The roots of Agile stretch back to at least the mid-1980s. In 1986, a game-changing paper by Takeuchi and Nonaka titled “The New New Product Development Game” was published. This seminal work highlighted the need for a more iterative and frequent approach to value delivery. This is a foundational principle of what we now recognise as Agile.
Following this publication, Scrum, one of the most recognisable Agile methodologies today, began to form in 1993. It was formally published two years later at the Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages & Applications (OOPSLA) annual conference in 1995. Many of Scrum’s concepts were generously shared with the wider community, leading to an infusion of these ideas into other Agile methodologies, including Extreme Programming.
Around the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic in the UK, the DSDM, or Dynamic Systems Development Method, framework emerged. While it didn’t spread as widely as some other Agile frameworks, it played a pivotal role in promoting a more frequent delivery approach, a shift away from the traditional waterfall methodology.
The birth of the Agile Manifesto
Fast forward to 2001, and the Agile landscape experienced a seismic shift with the creation of the Agile Manifesto. Other Agile frameworks that had emerged by this time, including Crystal, focused on testing and played a significant role in defining the Agile principles we rely on today.
Interestingly, if you were to visit the Agile Manifesto website (Agilemanifesto.org) today, you would find that its core tenets remain untouched, a testament to the enduring nature of Agile’s core philosophy.
Agile Manifesto and beyond
One of the most significant innovations since 2001 was the structuring of the Kanban method in 2006. Dan Vacanti and David Anderson each provided different approaches to define the Kanban method for maximising flow.
In 2010, another pivotal event was the publication of the Scrum framework in the Scrum Guide, providing a single, authoritative point of reference for Scrum. Around this time, there was a considerable expansion in complementary practices that supported Agile.
The term DevOps also emerged around this period. It is essentially Scrum done properly. Unfortunately, due to the myriad mechanical or poor implementations of Scrum, a new term had to be coined to articulate the original essence of Scrum.
Full circle and into the future
Reflecting on Agile’s evolution, it seems we’ve come almost full circle since the Agile Manifesto’s publication. There is a growing call for faster feedback loops and a more direct connection with the customer.
As Agile, Scrum, and Kanban increased in popularity, big consultancies and bigger businesses have taken an interest in it and we now see a commodification of mechanical or very textbook implementations. It is not uncommon to go to a client and see them take a 14-page Scrum guide and increase it out to a 280-page “this is how we do Agile in this particular organisation.” Distilling Agile down to the principles and core intents and behaviors is far more effective than trying to repeat a bureaucratic process.
The most successful teams aren’t those clinging to strict, bureaucratic processes or rigidly following every word of an Agile guide. Instead, they are those who embrace and embody the principles and core intents of Agile.
The focus has shifted away from a dogmatic application of Agile to the understanding that Agile’s very essence lies in its principles and behaviours.
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