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Secrets from the Agile Manifesto Authors on Flow


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I have been lucky enough to personally interview 14 of the agile manifesto authors, a project that has totally shifted my perspective on agility and working with teams. This project was the vision of my team – the Agile Uprising – and was conducted over 6 months and chronicled via a globally distributed podcast. During this time period, our podcast went from 0 listeners to an average of 8,000 per month.

The initial inception of the project was to tell the story behind the manifesto and it’s authors. The trigger was some work we were doing with Ken Schwaber and it was cancelled due to his failing health. We realized there was a huge moment in software history that had not been told, and these men were not getting any younger. We intended to interview each to understand what they were doing before, during and shortly after the Manifesto event in 2001. As the interviews started adding up, we heard a story of what Agile was meant to be, versus what it has become.

We learned that there were essentially 3 themes in all 14 interviews:

1. Focus on engineering culture
2. Build strong, empowered, teams
3. Establish mindfulness in delivery organizations

These 3 simple bullets are generally missed in most agile adoptions and transformations. Perhaps parts or some aspects are met, but on-whole, they are lacking. We focus too much on agile as a topic of didactic learning, and not a mindset. And what you see really emerge as a thing of beauty, is the residual benefits where these themes intersect. When Mindfulness and Technical Practices overlap you form strong process and integrated DevOps. Where Strong Teams and Technical Practices overlap you find rapid delivery of high quality working software. And where you find the convergence of all three elements, you find true value delivery flow.

This talk hones in on the re-centering of agile intent. It is agnostic of certification and scaling conversations, and builds a solid argument for the movements in Alistair Cockburn’s “Heart of Agile”, Joshua Kerievsky’s “Modern Agile” and Bob Martin’s “Clean Coder” movements.

As the talk wraps, I provide hope for the future of agility and engineering. A direction for attendees to move and an attempt to challenge the larger agile anti-patterns that are very prevalent in practice today.

You can find the recordings at
You can learn more about Contino at

Published in: Technology
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Secrets from the Agile Manifesto Authors on Flow

  1. 1. SecretsFrom The Agile Manifesto Authors on Flow Learnings from interviewing 14 of the 17 authors Ryan Lockard @AgilePHL
  2. 2. “Four measly bullets, and all this s#!t happened?!“ Jon Kern
  3. 3. The hit list ➔ What is Agile? What is the Agile Manifesto? ➔ What is Extreme Programming (XP)? ➔ What does this have to do with DevOps? ➔ How arrogant can Ryan possibly be?
  4. 4. Interview Project 4 Holy crap! They actually want to meet with us and share the story! Happy Accident 1 The history of the Agile Manifesto became the subtext to the project, the future of software engineering and teams emerged as the main topic Happy Accident 2 There was no prior work done to document and capture the larger story behind the Agile Manifesto There was no meaningful record The Agile Manifesto Authors were all aging and not as tightly connected as they were in 2001 We are losing our way
  5. 5. Participation 5 Took part in the project 14 of the 17 Kent Beck Ward Cunningham Dave Thomas
  6. 6. “We wrote the manifesto to avoid the codification of practices.“ Alistair Cockburn
  7. 7. The Secrets 7
  8. 8. 8Courtesy of Andy Hunt
  9. 9. 9 Courtesy of Jon Kern Full Notes:
  10. 10. 10 Courtesy of Andy Hunt Full Notes:
  11. 11. Participation 11Bob Martin
  12. 12. Participation 12 Martin Fowler
  13. 13. Participation 13 Andy Hunt
  14. 14. Participation 14Alistair Cockburn
  15. 15. Participation 15James Grenning
  16. 16. Participation 16 Jon Kern
  17. 17. Participation 17Ron Jeffries
  18. 18. Participation 18 All Interviews are on
  19. 19. Tech Practices
  20. 20. “The best way to teach a programmer is to put them in an apprentice to another programmer.“ Bob Martin
  21. 21. “Agile now means, we do half of scrum poorly and use Jira.“ Andy Hunt
  22. 22. “Hone your technical expertise so you can contribute, and hone your listening skills.“ Alistair Cockburn
  23. 23. “Be an engineer, and use that problem solving skillset when appropriate.“ James Grenning
  24. 24. “Thank god things in this world are not built the way we build software. Damned if I’m sitting in this building if it was built how we build software.“ Jon Kern
  25. 25. “I don't ask permission to write a test or refactor, any more than I ask for permission to write an if statement or a for loop.“ Ron Jeffries
  26. 26. Strong Teams
  27. 27. “We now have a problem with cargo cult agile.“ Martin Fowler
  28. 28. “We need for teams to decide deeply, we know we haven't broken the system.“ Ron Jeffries
  29. 29. “Find a place that is doing a really good job, and immerse yourself in that place.“ Martin Fowler
  30. 30. “One of the central concepts people lose, is the thought of adaptation.“ Andy Hunt
  31. 31. Mindfulness
  32. 32. “I don’t want to boil all of agile down to one word or phrase, but it does boil down to pride of workmanship.“ Bob Martin
  33. 33. “If you are in the mud, you aren't going to go anywhere.“ Martin Fowler
  34. 34. “I don't think I would add don't just do scrum damnit. Use your brain. Do the right thing and empower your teams.“ Jon Kern
  35. 35. The Secrets 35
  36. 36. Teams need to build a commitment to be the engineers they intended to be, every day. Strong Teams
  37. 37. Create a strong sense of empathy for the team and the users, it binds the approach and intent to desirable outcomes. Mindfulness
  38. 38. Build a deep respect for the craft of software engineering and learn from the thought leaders before you Tech Practices
  39. 39. The Secrets 39
  40. 40. The emergence of people, process, and technology becomes the lifeblood of organizations and transformation. People, process, technology
  41. 41. The cloud and orchestration are a means to create wild and reckless resource and financial waste for your company if you don’t know what you are doing. Tech Practices
  42. 42. The Secrets 42
  43. 43. The Secrets 43
  44. 44. The Secret is the DevOps Mindset 44 DevOps DevOps
  45. 45. 45 Thank you A link to all the podcasts and artifacts was recently tweeted by @AgilePHL Or you can find them here: