Jeff Patton writes about the importance of outcomes. Yes, and …

Jeff’s article deserves a good reading, and is kind of a prerequisite to this one. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Let me quote a slightly larger chunk from Jeff’s article:

The biggest missing value statement in the agile manifesto is:

Successful outcomes over efficient delivery

Just like the manifesto, the thing on the right is valuable. In fact it’s necessary. But, the thing on the left matters more.

When BeN tweeted a link to this article on Twitter, it created a lot of conversation, much of it quite sensible. With a bit of luck, you may be able to find some of it. Twitter, like Vivaldi, is a jungle. One interesting series grew around Alistair Cockburn’s assertion that you can’t learn faster than you can ship. I can only assume that he was agitating, since it’s quite clear that we can learn things every day, even if we never ship. We cannot, however, create a successful customer/product outcome without shipping, and when we do, we’ll learn some more.

Now, as for adding things to the manifesto, we could play that game forever until we finally drilled all the way down or up to the ultimate “over”, perhaps something about preferring one’s deity of choice over earthly power. I don’t know.

Everyone has some topic around which they organize all their thinking, and Jeff’s, I’d say, is somewhere around the product, its impact on customers, its success, its influence on company success, and like that. I’m sure he could put it better: he puts everything better.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, to give it its full name, was about software development. I was reflecting this morning, as hot water rained down upon my head, that in that room at that time, our common model of software development was that we made software for someone and it was that someone who got to say what the software had to do.

Kent Beck, years later, was the first person whom I heard question that assumption. He said that he felt that the Customer-Programmer divide in XP was a serious flaw, but that at the time, he could see no way around it.

Mary Poppendieck, too, is a contender for first in my ears. Mary has been calling the notion of Scrum’s Product Owner wrong for years. She pointed clearly to the fact that it’s better when the whole team has responsibility for solving the problem, not just the single “owner”.

All true. But at the time, we did have in our collective minds, the notion of developers writing software for someone else. Right or wrong, that’s the focus of the Manifesto.

All life over individual wealth

And yes, let me say right here that while I am all about those four values, I can think of values that are more important than any of them. That doesn’t mean to me that they belong in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

Humans over corporations

That manifesto, that ancient scroll, is about a few values and principles that 17 aging white men could agree upon, relating to their common views of how best to build software. Those men might not even agree with some of the higher values that others of us might express.

Planet over profit

But that’s not to say that I disagree with Jeff’s article. I don’t. I might be able to find something to talk with him about. I might find something where I’d argue about whether his emphasis was quite right. But overall, yes.

Democracy over authoritarianism

The thinking of many of those excellent Manifesto authors, and even my own poor thinking, has of course evolved since then. I’m sure we have all learned things, though I am equally sure that we have not all learned some things that we should have.

I think most of us are slowly coming around to a better understanding of the role of collaboration, and of human values, in the creation of software. I am fond of GeePaw Hill’s phrase, “Makers, Making the Made”, which in four words captures the intricate dance between the people, the product, and the creation of the product, which works better the more intimately the three are connected.

That phrase, which I wish I had created, still falls right inside the scope of the Manifesto. It’s still all (mostly?) about the creation of the Made, the product, the software. It certainly invites the XP Customer or the Scrum Product Owner, or the vaguely named “business people” of the Manifesto into the circle. They are “Makers”, just as are the analysts, designers, architects, programmers, testers, graphic artists, writers, …, everyone who is part of making the product. Even end users, if we are able to get them in there with us.

But what about outcomes? Aren’t they more important than all that? Surely they are. As are many other “overs” that may have popped into your mind as you read this article.

The focus of those 17 aging white men, in those days, was on the making of software. I happen to still focus mostly there, despite forays into other topics, and I am grateful to be surrounded by many more people wiser and more interesting than I am, certainly including Jeff Patton.

You get to pick your focus, and if you can focus on making the world a better place in a more grand and important fashion than I can, please do. And if you’re in among the Makers Making the Made, I hope I can be of a bit of use.