Recapping the Agile Manifesto 20th Anniversary—Present of Agile

February 17, 2021

The Agile Manifesto 20th Anniversary held three panels—The Past of Agile, The Present of Agile, and The Future of Agile. The past year has been unprecedented, and many have found that being Agile has made all the difference in a company’s success. Here are some takeaways from the panel. 

Panelists: Neville Poole, Pollyanna Pixton, Brian Benn, Jon Kern, Arie van Bennekum

there have been Lots of changes in past year. how has agility served us, or not?

Jon: Companies that were practicing Agile and mature in Agile didn’t have a big ripple. The general attitude that Agile brings gave us the ability to deal with these situations.

Arie: Where we are today in lockdown gave a push for Agile working. All of a sudden, everyone had to work remotely, and even conservative companies had to push forward with this new way of working and interacting.

Pollyanna: We are getting an opportunity to get more people together on Zoom. It’s helped us learn how to really listen, because we can’t see body language. Since Agile principles are about listening and about collaboration Zoom calls are making it easier to collaborate.

Brian: This pandemic has taught us that we have to have an ability to pivot. When we think about Agile, we think about both the strategic and the tactical levels. As soon as a fundamental change in the industry happens, on a strategic level now you don’t immediately abort your strategy. You can assess the achievability and applicability of your strategy, then apply the Agile principles to continue to achieve your strategy. 


what is one thing that agile has taught us as leaders that we can use as a workaround in the pandemic?

Neville: With the concept of transparency, in order for people to be vulnerable and real about what’s happening in their world, there needs to be an intentional conversation that happens with leaders their teams. When we think about Agility allowing us to collaborate and create high-performing teams, there’s a personal aspect to that. During this pandemic regarding stress and mental health, it’s a requirement of leaders to be in tune with how their team is doing. Leveraging patterns that we use in Agility to facilitate these conversations is something our leaders can use to their advantage.

Pollyanna: The leaders I have watched are always asking their team questions and saying how the isolation is very difficult. They put themselves first, and allow their teams to speak back to it. They all talk about how much they miss being together, and in conversations watch for emotional reactions and stay aware of who’s participating and who’s not. These leaders give some relief to their teams by asking if anyone needs a break. Another pandemic hack is creating fun virtual events.

Jon: The things we’re hitting on are individuals and interactions. It’s no surprise that those things are especially important now. Anything that helps break up the monotony and bring people together is really important. 


Is agile important right now? is it a good time to move to agility?

Neville: Absolutely! Here are three reasons. 1. Agility helps create leaders who are compassionate and can lead through uncertain times. 2. We also have to accelerate getting the valuable things that our customers need out the door faster. 3. There has to be a system that adapts to change as it happens, not after it happens.

Brian: The level of engagement with the customers that Agile promotes is very helpful right now. The collaboration within the team itself is also helpful in this isolation. And the flexibility in Agile also breaks up the monotony. 

Jon: Agile works right now because of the technology we use to communicate. In the past, you’d fly somewhere, work with them, fly home. Now it’s so easy to spread things out and make more of an impact. 


We were taught agile won’t work remotely. is this true?

Arie: When we wrote the manifesto, we wanted to be face-to-face. That doesn’t mean I have to smell you—a screen helps us see non-verbal communications. We never said body-to-body.

Brian: We need to understand the concept of virtual. We can still make eye contact, and we need to understand that we’re in one room, even if it’s a virtual room. We need to change our mindset and adjust, even within Agile. 

Jon: I can argue both sides. You have easier communication in person and can be a little more effective. However, being remote forces us to document and be more specific. We need to work even harder to communicate. Some of the best work I’ve done is with remote teams. 

Pollyanna: When I think of face-to-face, I mean getting the team talking to the customers. It means not tuning out on Zoom, but actually interacting.


How do you go through a team forming and storming in today’s remote world?

Neville: It’s important for organizations to give new teams the space to know each other, rather than just jumping into work. They need to build trust and see each other as a team, not just squares on a screen.

Arie: It’s no different than being together in person. It takes time, and you need to focus on how to facilitate a team in their forming and storming phases. 

Pollyana: I like to ask my team what they think the purpose of the team is, and I ask them to write down what they’re about. Then they can start thinking together about what they’re about and how they will get there. 

Jon: Usually a first exercise is, “Why are you here,” and a lot of teams struggle with their purpose. 

Brian: As leaders, we have to create an environment where it’s OK for a team to fail. And we need to manage our own expectations and understand that 20% of the people will do 80% of the work. So we want them to fail forward and give them challenging tasks to come together and become a high-performing team. 


Let’s talk some about business agility

Arie: Business agility is corporate capability. For me it’s a no-brainer! We use Agility to create value, and value is not just found in software!

Jon: Everything ties back to a goal, and you need to think about what outcomes you’re trying to achieve. 

Pollyanna: The first thing we do is have the business tell us what the value is, what they hope to expect, their timeframe. Then we pull in other teams, like Marketing. And you meet on a regular basis.

Brian: I think technology should be last. We need to focus on the symbiotic relationship between people, processes, and technology. Once we get those things in that order, then we can determine if IT should come in. 

Neville: When we talk about Agility and creating value, there’s a muscle that’s being created. That same muscle needs to live in the entire organization. The more we can strength it, the more they can see a way to be disruptive in the industry. 


What advice would you give to people regarding agility in today’s present state?

Pollyanna: Pay attention to people.

Arie: Never stop learning.

Jon: Be extremely humble.

Brian: Be leadable, be teachable, be malleable. 

Neville: Lead with compassion.


Special Behind the Scenes Footage: Brian Rabon interviews Alistair Cockburn on Agile during Covid and how it has changed the world of remote work. 

Braintrust Asks Alister—Agile and Covid

Braintrust Asks Alister—Agile’s Biggest Surprise

Braintrust Asks Alister—Manifesto Regrets


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