Agile Manifesto and Principles: Effective Values and Practices

Written By Penelope Quinn
agile manifesto and principles

The Agile Manifesto, a landmark in the software development industry, emerged as a clear and decisive break from the rigid, linear processes prevalent in the late 20th century. It represents a collective recognition of the need for a more flexible and adaptive approach to creating software. Developed by seventeen thought leaders in 2001, the manifesto prioritizes customer satisfaction, flexible response to change, and the delivery of functional software.

Underpinning the Agile Manifesto are twelve guiding principles that refine its core values, bringing a practical dimension to its implementation. These principles, which include continuous delivery, embracing change, and maintaining a sustainable pace, serve as a foundation for various Agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban. They offer a structured yet adaptable framework that fosters a collaborative and efficient working atmosphere.

Key Takeaways

  • The Agile Manifesto revolutionized software development, emphasizing adaptability, customer focus, and iterative progress.
  • Twelve principles further detail the manifesto’s application, ensuring a practical approach to collaborative software creation.
  • Agile methodologies derived from these principles enhance project flexibility and boost value delivery to customers.

Historical Context of the Agile Manifesto

In the early 2000s, the software development industry faced significant challenges due to rapidly changing requirements and the inability of traditional methods to cope with them. The Waterfall model, a linear and sequential approach, dominated the scene but often led to inefficiencies and dissatisfaction among customers and development teams.

The Birth of Agile

In response, seventeen independent-minded software practitioners gathered at The Lodge at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah in February 2001. Despite their diverse backgrounds and opinions, they agreed on a new methodology called ‘Agile software development.’ Their discussions revolved around streamlining development processes and addressing core issues in project management.

The Core Values

They articulated these ideas in the Agile Manifesto, which outlines four core values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change by following a plan

Principles Behind Agile

Additionally, the manifesto sets forth 12 guiding principles that support these values, emphasizing continuous delivery, adaptability, and client-focused development.

Despite being over two decades old, the manifesto remains relevant today. Software companies widely embrace Agile development practices, evidencing the enduring impact of the manifesto’s values and principles on the industry. Agile’s influence extends beyond software into various business aspects, showcasing its adaptability and testament to the foresight of its creators.

Core Values of the Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto articulates four fundamental values, prioritizing human communication and results over rigid processes and documentation. These values are a compass for the decision-making process in agile software development.

Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools

In agile development, the emphasis is placed on the people doing the work and how they collaborate. Agile values assert that effective communication and collaboration are paramount to the success of a project. Individual contributions and team dynamics drive progress rather than strictly adhering to processes and tools.

Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation

Rather than extensive documentation that can become outdated or go unread, the Agile Manifesto values prioritize the delivery of functional software. This recognizes that working software is the ultimate measure of progress and provides immediate value to the customer, demonstrating the effectiveness of the agile approach.

Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation

This value highlights the importance of ongoing collaboration with customers throughout the project. Agile processes facilitate flexibility, allowing teams to adapt to customer needs and changes in requirements instead of being constrained by contract terms.

Responding to Change Over Following a Plan

In an ever-changing technological landscape, agility is vital. The Agile Manifesto values the ability to adapt to change over strict adherence to a predefined plan. This flexibility ensures the continued relevance and value of the end product in the face of change, whether these changes are technological advances or shifts in market demands.

The 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto prioritizes customer satisfaction, embraces change, and promotes sustainable development through its 12 guiding principles. Each principle focuses on different aspects of software development to create a responsive and efficient approach that responds to customer needs and fosters collaboration.

Satisfying the Customer Through Early and Continuous Delivery

The Agile Manifesto emphasizes that the highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software, adapting and evolving as the development team reflects on how to become more effective and adjusts its behavior accordingly. This responsive approach aims to provide immediate value and iterative improvements over the project’s lifecycle.

Welcoming Changing Requirements

Agile development is flexible, welcoming changing requirements even in late development stages. Such adaptability ensures that the product evolves to meet customer needs and market demands.

Delivering Working Software Frequently

Delivering working software frequently ranges from a few weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for shorter timescales. This principle asserts that regular releases enable quicker feedback and correction.

Collaboration Between Business People and Developers

The Agile principle of collaboration means business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. This collaboration ensures a mutual understanding of objectives, leading to better outcomes.

Building Projects Around Motivated Individuals

Agile environments are built around motivated individuals. Projects can thrive by providing them with the environment and support they need and trusting them to do the job.

The Most Efficient and Effective Method of Conveying Information

Face-to-face conversation is the most efficient and effective method of conveying information between team members. The Agile Manifesto underscores the value of direct communication.

Sustainable Development and Maintaining Pace

Developers, business people, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely, highlighting the importance of sustainable development in agile projects.

Continuous Attention to Technical Excellence

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility and is a core aspect of agile principles. The Agile Manifesto suggests that well-crafted work delivers value and supports ongoing future changes.

Simplicity as an Essential Element

Maximizing the amount of work not done is essential. Embracing simplicity, Agile promotes streamlining processes, reducing unnecessary labor, and focusing on what is truly necessary.

Self-Organizing Teams

According to the Agile Manifesto, the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. This autonomy fosters creativity and innovation within the team structure.

Regular Reflection and Adjustment

The 12 agile principles advocate for teams to reflect on their effectiveness regularly and adjust their behavior accordingly. This principle underscores the importance of ongoing improvement.

Continuous Attention to Technical Excellence

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. The Agile Manifesto suggests that well-crafted work delivers value and supports ongoing future changes.

Agile Methodologies and Frameworks

Agile methodologies offer various frameworks for improving software development efficiency and responsiveness to evolving customer demands. Each framework under the agile umbrella provides a unique approach to project management and product development, emphasizing collaboration, customer feedback, and rapid iteration.


Scrum is a widely adopted agile framework that structures development around Sprints, which are fixed-length iterations, typically lasting two to four weeks. Teams create a prioritized work list called a Product Backlog, and during each Sprint, they pull a subset from this backlog to develop. Key roles in Scrum include the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team.


Kanban is another agile methodology, focusing on visualizing work with a Kanban board where work items are represented on cards that move through columns representing stages of the process. Its key principles involve work-in-progress (WIP) limits, continuous flow, and explicit process policies, fostering an environment of ongoing improvement and efficiency in agile solutions.

Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme Programming (XP) enhances software quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements. XP encourages frequent “releases” in short development cycles, which improves productivity and introduces checkpoints where new customer requirements can be adopted. The methodology stresses customer satisfaction, simplicity, and continuous feedback through practices like pair programming, test-driven development, and collective code ownership.

Lean Development

Lean Development applies Lean principles to software development, aiming to create more value with fewer resources and embodying agile principles to harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. It focuses on optimizing efficiency, minimizing waste, and delivering only what is needed. Lean Development promotes the idea that any component that does not add value to the customer is considered wasteful and should be eliminated in pursuing an agile approach.

Challenges and Misconceptions in Adopting Agile

Adopting Agile methodologies presents challenges and misconceptions that can hinder the success and understanding of Agile within organizations. One common misconception is that Agile means no planning or structure, whereas, in reality, Agile involves continuous planning and emphasizes adaptability (Agile and Scrum: Unravelling the Misconceptions).

Challenges Misconceptions
Resistance to change Agile is a silver bullet for every project
Lack of commitment Agile does not require documentation
Unrealistic expectations Agile is only for software development

Organizations often face challenges in fostering an Agile mindset among teams used to traditional methodologies. It usually requires a cultural shift, as Agile emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and customer satisfaction over strict adherence to processes (Overcoming Common Challenges in Agile Implementation).

Additionally, embracing Agile is sometimes misinterpreted; departments may selectively apply Agile practices without total commitment, leading to a fragmented approach that fails to encapsulate Agile values (Agile Manifesto: Exploring the Values & Principles).

  • Communication breakdowns
  • Misalignment of team and management expectations
  • Inadequate experience with Agile methodologies

Such obstacles underscore the importance of education and training in successfully adopting Agile processes that are true to the principles laid out in the Agile Manifesto. With investment in learning and alignment of company culture, the promise of Agile can be easier to realize fully (Agile problems, challenges, failures).

Frequently Asked Questions

In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, the Agile Manifesto remains a cornerstone of software development. It provides a foundational philosophy that guides best practices and methodologies in the industry.

What is the historical context behind the creation of the Agile Manifesto?

The Agile Manifesto was formulated to address inefficiencies in the traditional, sequential approach to software development known as waterfall. It was born from a desire to improve processes to be more iterative and responsive to change.

Who are the original authors of the Agile Manifesto?

Seventeen software developers formulated the Agile Manifesto in February 2001. These individuals were experienced in various development methodologies and sought to establish a more flexible and efficient approach.

How do Agile principles guide software engineering practices?

Agile principles prioritize customer satisfaction, welcome changing requirements, and favor frequent delivery of working software. They advocate for sustainable development, close collaboration, and self-organizing teams, ultimately enhancing software engineering practices.

Can you provide examples of Agile practices implemented in project management?

Examples include daily stand-up meetings, retrospective meetings, and iterative development. These practices promote communication, continuous improvement, and adaptability within project management.

What are the differences between various Agile frameworks and methodologies?

Frameworks like Scrum emphasize roles and time-boxed iterations, while Kanban focuses on continuous delivery and managing work in progress. Other methodologies, such as Extreme Programming (XP), prioritize technical excellence and simplicity in software design.

In what ways does the Agile Manifesto influence modern Agile project management?

The Agile Manifesto’s principles underpin modern Agile project management by emphasizing the value of individuals and interactions, working solutions, customer collaboration, and the capacity to respond to change over following a rigid plan.