Considering the Agile Manifesto and the Axioms of Agile Work

The Agile Manifesto, aimed squarely at software development, is inaccurate when considered against the more general target of Agile Work. The Agile Software Manifesto reads in part:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.


Having studied Scrum, and attempted to apply agile practices on non-software projects in non-corporate, non-new-product-development efforts, I am painfully aware that the Agile Software Manifesto needs some re-jigging to become the Agile Work Manifesto. My first cut at doing this was to remove the software implications from the above four statements of value. This resulted in the following three statements of value:

Individuals and Interactions are preferred over Processes and Tools
Moving Towards a Valued Goal is preferred over Producing Ephemera
Responding to Change is preferred over Following a Plan

I removed the part about customer collaboration because I felt that it was strongly implied by “Individuals and Interactions” and “Moving Towards a Valued Goal” and because not all efforts have identifiable customers in the sense that a business effort usually does.

Once I got to this point, I started to feel like the statements of value were not really getting to the fundamental assumptions or principles or axioms of Agile Work. I thought quite a bit about each value and what it was really saying at a very basic level. For example, “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools” is partly about the value and power of human beings. What is that power? “Moving Towards a Valued Goal over Producing Ephemera” begs the questions of what is a valued goal? and can ephemera be valued? and for that matter, what exactly constitutes ephemera and its opposite? Finally, “Responding to Change over Following a Plan” is really saying that plans don’t tend to work. And why is that? So in order to answer those questsions, I have come up with the following three Agile Work Axioms:

People are Creators
Perception Mediates Reality
Change is Constant

People are creators and that’s why its so important for us to improve ourselves and our interactions with others. Perception mediates reality and that’s why we must produce results that are perceived as valuable to those who care about our results. Change is constant and that’s why following a plan never works… unless you “embrace change” (Beck). But there is still something missing. There is a foundation necessary to make these principles work together in real human environments.

Truthfulness is the Foundation of Agile Work


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2 thoughts on “Considering the Agile Manifesto and the Axioms of Agile Work”

  1. The only way I would adjust this at this point is to say that people are “creative”, not “creators”. But we’ve already been down that path. Creativity then becomes the attribute of the creature that has been endowed with the potential to reflect the attributes and qualities of its Creator. Creativity, therefore, is relative – manifested in different ways and to different degrees by individuals depending on their capacity. The name and attribute of God, the Creator, remains an absolute. This allows us to be conceptually clear and to understand better how creativity can and should be applied, nurtured and developed. It allows us to freely develop our talents without falling into the trap of compromising clear and lofty standards that have been given to us by the Creator of all things. And we know that history has shown us time and time again that the use of creativity unmediated by the standards of religion have had catastrophic consequences for the well-being of people.

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