When did Agile start?

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Categories: History


For most people this looks like a very easy question: in 2001, when the Agile Manifesto was published. The first comment to this is that the "Agile Manifesto" is in fact the manifesto for Agile software development and while it is very important in the Agile history it is not the beginning.

Like many other discoveries "Agile" was originally a byproduct of military advantage. The first mention of an Agile approach is a study from the United States Department of Defense in late 50s aiming at finding ways to adapt military supplies to the specifics of war zones. It was the start of the Agile Manufacturing, and in my opinion manufacturing is still ahead in terms of agility. 

In the big scheme of things, like history, software development is a new topic. People "uncovered better ways" of doing it for millenia. Since we were hunters there were people that thought "out of the box" even when there was no such thing as a box :). The difference was the rate of change, thousands or even hundreds of years ago the society was pretty conservative and "new ways" were considered dangerous and sometimes crazy.There was no need for change as it is today.

Posted on: March 12, 2019 08:53 PM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Well Noted.quite interesting to know when Agile was used and by whom .

Thanks, Stelian. I recently had to put together an Agile timeline, and I went back to 1943 and the famous Lockheed SkunkWorks. Now I wish I had gone back to the first hunters.

This timeline goes back to Fibonacci in the 13th century, although I think that may be a bit tongue-in-cheek.
http://www.agilereleaseplanning.com/agile-timeline/

Many things enabled the "Agile" movement. The software industry was the one that made it possible. What other product would let you make a progressive or iterative improvement? once in the hands of customers.

@Wade, I had the same dilema: when did Agile start? So far the first documented mention of Agile as a new thought process is the "Agile Project". It was a DOD initiative in 60's. That initiative resulted in the creation of the Agile Forum in early 90's.
Agile practices and approach, without being named Agile, goes indeed to the first hunters and that's not a joke or sarcasm. Just remove the references to software from the manifesto. There were many people that uncovered better ways by doing it and helping others to do it, collaborated, focused on result etc.
There are few timelines for Lean and Six Sigma that start with Fibonacci, Pareto, Gauss etc.

@Vincent. There is a "parallel" Agile movement in manufacturing. It is called Agile Manufacturing and has the same goal: responding rapidly and efficient to market changes. There was an Agile Forum at the Lehigh University in early 90's with impressive participation from large companies.
In my opinion Agile is far more mature in manufacturing than in software development. SAFe and DevOps are only 2 arguments that supports this. Agile (software development) is now implementing Lean practices (i.e. kanban) to become efficient, not only able to respond fast to change.

@Vincent. I can think of few other products that show iterative and progressive improvement. Personal computers, mobile phones and even cars. Another proof that manufacturing was Agile before software development.

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