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Manifesto for Agile Leadership

We all know the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, it was created by software engineers for software engineers. It is in general referred to as "THE" Agile Manifesto.

I have also seen so-called agile manifesto 2.0 and 2.1, etc, etc -- but these were all "kind of" iterations on the first one and it was never clear to me the problem they were intended to solve.

The Agile Manifesto changed the landscape and defined a new era in the software development mindset. It has also created an industry of practitioners and coaches focused on the Software Development Team.

While the manifesto for software development has by and large set the path for Operational Agile and drives what Stephen Denning refers to as the Law of the Small Team, it does not offer guidance toward Strategic Agile.

As I and many others engage with executives to help drive an "Agile Transformation", one of the first things we tend to do is explain that "this is not just a dev thing". In fact what we are doing is literally arguing with the opening line of the manifesto - "for Software Development".

Let me be clear on my intent. I am not talking about attempting to re-write the original manifesto. This is meant to be different. This is not focused at the software development team or any singular team for that matter.

This is intended for the whole of the company via the executive suite. It must be endorsed by and driven with the executive team as "the way" we lead our company.

There will be resistance to this manifesto. Most public and many private company executives have their comp largely based on stock price and the short term gains seen by playing that game. A game that benefits neither the customer nor the long term value of the company.

As I am typing this, I am imagining the many executives who will realize that with a single line in a new manifesto; the calculus of their comp plans will be completely changed. They are of course correct.

The fear and uncertainty of any change can rattle a person; paradigm shifts are more like earth quakes than rattles. Those frozen with this fear will resist with all they have; and let's be clear, that is a lot.

This change will be hard.

This new manifesto will not be well received by many.

This kind of "heresy" is akin to what landed Galileo in jail for life. Galileo was not wrong, but the powers that be just could not have it; it threatened what they perceived to be the core of their power - they simply HAD to be the center of the universe.

That is ok though.

I am not the only one saying this, I am not breaking any new ground and I will certainly not be jailed by a king.

If one were to grab the latest book by Stephen Denning - The Age of Agile or the latest book by Simon Sinek - The Infinite Game, you will find much of this exact sentiment.

In fact, you can go back to the work of Peter Drucker who said:

"The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer".

This is exactly why we need bold and direct lines in our new Agile Leadership Manifesto. We need to change to meet the new paradigm of a customer driven world and to reward the longer term thinking executives who embrace it.

We have entered a real paradigm shift and the future winners will engage it.

We need something more; we need a Manifesto for Agile Leadership; something to guide the mindset of the leadership for the whole company.

We need to write it down.

This is a conversation, not a declaration, that will hopefully lead to a manifesto.

In this blog post, I will start with one line:

Creating a customer over optimizing shareholder value

  • Support it.

  • Tear it apart.

  • Love it.

  • Hate it.

  • Improve it.

  • Add more lines.

Let's have a conversation.

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