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Agile Movement's parallels to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

What parallels are there between Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the state of the Agile movement's union?

Lincoln was a primary figure at the dedication of Soldiers' National Cemetery, in Gettysburg. He did not wish to upstage the keynote speaker, Edward Everett, and so summarized in 2 minutes the principle of human equality as defined by the Declaration of Independence and the Civil War.  Do you remember, the keynote speech?  Few people do.


Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 
- - U.S. President Abraham Lincoln

I heard an NPR story about a person that give their grandkids twenty dollars to recite the Address.  It sounded like a wonderful way to engage kids in history and the founding reasons of the existence of this nation.  I'm assuming that it would take the children some time to memorize the short speech and in so doing they would have questions, about what the words meant.  How many of your colleagues know what unit of quantity a score represents?  Do you know what happened four-score and seven years before 1863?

The foundational document of this new nation is the Declaration of Independence - signed in the summer of 1776 by a group of wealth white men.  They are now described as our founding fathers, yet some were quite young at the time (Hamilton, 21; Jefferson, 33; Washington, 44).  These free thinking people (and some were women - they just didn't sign the document) were called radicals by their government and traders by their neighbors.


Does any of this sound like a fractal of the Agile Manifesto and the movement that was started back in the 1990s with lightweight frameworks for organizing software product creation.  The desire to increase the good aspects and there by overcome the poor habits (appreciative inquiry or extreme programming - is there a difference?).

Is there a revisionist movement some 15-20 years beyond the 2001 manifesto creation?  Yes, there appears to be a constant yearning for the next wave, the next wagon to hitch your cart onto.

Are there amendments that need to be added to the manifesto much like the Bill of Rights?  Or is that a fringe movement on the periphery?



Modern agile  defining four guiding principles:

  • Make people awesome
  • Make safety a prerequisite
  • Experiment and learn rapidly
  • Deliver value continuously

Alistair Cockburn observer his communication style in beginner and advanced classes, he said: "[I] found that when I was encouraging getting back to the center/heart/spirit of agile, I kept emphasizing these four things, and drew them in a diamond:"



Could the newest technique Mob Programming be anything more than an incremental addition to eXtreme Programming (XP)?  Some 30 years in the making.








I've found a next movement in the Agile Symphony. [Do you see what I just did there? Yeah, changed the metaphor but pivoted upon the term movement. Crafty right?]  I believe the next movement that so many people are looking for are just a jump to the left.  Look to the left of the typical process flow of value through the company, just left of what the current Agile process addresses (software development).  It's the creative process that is just up stream of software development.  The product ideation phase, the place where all those creative people are trying to get a seat at the table and be engaged with the software product design.  The User Interface and User eXperience people are wanting to engage with the whole process. Not just be consulted at the end of the process when the user acceptance test has proven that no one wants to use our product.

Could it be that the UX group is searching for a way to improve the development process?  Are they sensing the need to find a better process?  One that results in similar outcomes but with shorter timelines, a process that allows them to maximize the value in their portion of the stream.  I think this group is in the same place as the lightweight software development group was in the 1990s.  Before a few of them got together to coin the term Agile and write a manifesto to protect their small market share from the large 800 pound gorillas in the software consultancy market space.

Well the gorillas have exerted their power and the industry has consolidated into the safer methods that allow the late adopters to feel good about their failing transformations.  Your OK, and I'm OK; let's just call the whole thing off.  And that folks, is how we arrive back at the trend in business lifecycles becoming shorter, while innovation continues to accelerate.

So maybe this new movement in the symphony will allow me to come into their community.  I feel I have something to offer, I love learning, and building (which I think of as design).  I have a bit of experience with these new methods of designing and building and learning as we discover what the customer truly desire.  I'd like to help the creative people get that seat at the whole development table.

Maybe you could think of this period of software development as the reconstruction.

The Agile Reconstruction

What would the Agile reconstruction consist of...
Well it needs to return to the humanistic roots, the concept of a group of passionate people that care for their craft, improving their craft, and sharing in the collective benefit and joy that brings into peoples lives.

One such technique, I'm extremely excited about is OpenSpace Agility.  This is a technology that is capable of jump starting an Agile Transformation.  What I've been practicing for 15 - 30 years is bull crap.  That is - IF Transformation is what is truly desired - You said "Transformation"; what do you mean?



See Also:

Reshaping our View of Agile Transformation - Jason Little

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