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The Agile Alliance Moves Forward

When the term “agile methods” was coined at Snowbird early in 2001, few of us could have predicted the speed with which the word “agile” would enter the lexicon. Since then, there’s been a broad range of activity under the agile banner, both from the manifesto authors themselves and from other agile-minded people in the community.
The annual OOPSLA conference held in Tampa, Florida in October marked the first occasion since Snowbird when most of the authors of the manifesto could get together to assess the effects of the last six months. One night, we evicted the students from the their rumpus room, and met, joined by others who were also interested in assessing what we’d done and what we should do next.

Where we’ve been

Jim Highsmith and Martin Fowler wrote an agile cover article for Software Development magazine; Jim teamed up with Alistair Cockburn to do a similar article for IEEE Computer. OOPSLA saw the debut of the book Agile Software Development by Alistair, another gaudily colored XP book by Ken Auer and Roy Miller and (finally) a book on Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle. In many ways a summit of our efforts was the fact that agile software development merited an article in that bastion of lucidity and taste, The Economist.

The object-oriented community has long had an inclination to work in an agile way, so there was no surprise to see that agile processes were heavily featured throughout the OOPSLA conference program. Alistair Cockburn’s keynote was all about agility, and few will forget his notion of swimsuits as a metaphor for methodologies. Tom DeMarco’s keynote praised agility as well, and he confided that his latest book was originally titled The Agile Organization. There were also a dozen tutorials and four workshops with an agile theme. All in all, quite a buzz for concept that didn’t even have a name last year.

But one unanswered question seemed to be on everyone’s mind. All of the authors of the agile manifesto have received emails from people asking to join the “agile alliance,” despite the fact that there is no club to join. Many have asked how they can help, to which Alistair gives the reply that they should take a flag, start running and see who follows. The metaphor we liked best was that the Snowbird Seventeen had authored the manifesto and then broken a bottle of champagne over the bow of the good ship Agile Methodology, launching it into what we hope is a splendid dawn.

Where we’re going

Having set the notion of agility loose in the world, we took the time at OOPSLA to discuss where we are going next. Ward Cunningham and Dave Thomas are adding a facility to the site that will let people sign the manifesto—you can show the world your support for the concepts in the manifesto and in the principles by signing this page.
Ken Schwaber is putting together a working group to examine ideas for forming an on-going agile organization to foster awareness and education of agile methods. Alistair and Jim have launched a new book series on agile development, Laurie Williams and Bob Martin are plotting to organize a conference next year, and Dave and Andy Hunt will be promoting agile construction techniques in their new column in IEEE Software magazine, as well as hosting an agile portal.

Plenty of other ideas are brewing, including expanding the web site to include additional information such as a section for reviewed papers.

How you can help

We got more accomplished in a few hours of face-to-face conversation than we had in several months of back and forth email and phone calls, providing another firm data point for a fundamental assertion of the Agile manifesto—that collocation, conversations, and interaction are indeed the most effective ways to work.

If you are interested in supporting the agile movement, you don’t need to sign up, or pay dues, or swear allegiance to the authors. Find someone running with an Agile flag and help them, or paint your own initiative on a sign, grab a flag and start running.

by: Andy Hunt, Martin Fowler, Jim Highsmith, Alistair Cockburn, and A Cast of Thousands