To understand Agile better let's go back to the state of the software community in the early 2000's. Back then the community was largely dominated by “hard” values. The work process that was promoted and utilized relied on predefined rules, structures and planning. In other words, it was largely a community based on what seemed to be a bureaucratic foundation. However these rules were too rigid to meet the everyday challenges and changes in a professional area that is particularly prone to these. A new group within the community argued that the traditional mindset overlooked the important “softer” values, such as human interaction and adaptive problem solving.
They formulated a manifesto to encourage challenging the more traditional values:
INDIVIDUALS AND INTERACTIONS over processes and tools
WORKING SOFTWARE over comprehensive documentation
CUSTOMER COLLABORATION over contract negotiation
RESPONDING TO CHANGE over following a plan
The new manifesto touched a nerve in the community. It seemed to resonate with the human nature that finds meaning and purpose in being a part of projects that fit in with and adapt to the world we live in, instead of simply being isolated units that can be perfectly planned prior to execution. Agile does not state that processes do not or should not exist. Rather it proposes a balance between these processes and a mindset that isn't closed off to the meaningful and purposeful interaction with its environment.
Even before the Agile manifesto was officially formulated, the principles and mindset it advocates were apparent in the software development community. So were these tendencies specific to this community, and does that mean that the mindset only applies to software development? The answer to this question has proven to be a sounding “no”. To gain understand of the universal nature of Agile think about the growing dissatisfaction with overly bureaucratic systems in society. Here paperwork often becomes a burden to the people living in that society, and they long for more meaningful, social interactions and tasks. As such Agile is not new. It has been around along with Lean in different forms and in different industries.
However with the Agile Manifesto it provided a more cohesive and consolidated picture of the issues. Today we see the influence of Agile in many different areas of society. Since its early beginning, the main principles of the manifesto have spread to areas such as business management, education, economics and e-commerce, where today they represent a more modern way of thinking, interacting and approaching challenges.