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The "Oath of Non-Allegiance"

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The Oath of Non-Allegiance

Alistair Cockburn, a signatory of the Agile Manifesto, is offering the following oath for your consideration, and signature.

Question: Can you commit to the following?

I promise not to exclude from consideration any idea based on its source, but to consider ideas across schools and heritages in order to find the ones that best suit the current situation.

Do you agree? Do you promise? Sign the Oath of Non-Allegiance here.

The Oath of Non-Allegiance is simple enough to understand. The real question is, why do we actually need something like this?

According to Alistair Cockburn, we do actually need something like this, because:

...this means the end of statements like “That’s no good – it’s not 'agile', 'object-oriented', 'pure' etc…”, but rather a discussion about whether the idea (agile, plan-driven impure whatever) works well in the conditions of the moment.

Recent History

The Agile community is full of smart people and smart ideas. The history of our community incudes the astonishing growth in the use of Scrum. Scrum itself is a topic of great debate, and one can argue that Scrum itself has a certain polarizing quality to it. Debates about Scrum include what is actually Scrum, what is "Scrum-but", what is "canonical Scrum", and whether Scrum can scale to manage larger entities like departments, divisions and entire enterprises.

Recently, Kanban is gaining traction. Many in the Kanban 'camp' are pitching Kanban as an alternative-- even a replacement-- for Scrum. Some of the more hard-core members Scrum community members occasionally fire back.

This is just one of many semi-dogmatic debates that go on each and every day in the Agile community. Another common point of friction is a debate-- sometimes heated- about when and if the Project Management Institute can ever effectively integrate Agile ideas into the Project Management Book of Knowledge. Can they? Is there such a thing as an "Agile Project Manager" ? You can learn more about that ongoing debate by examining this InfoQ article on PMI-Agile.

In late 2009, things got a bit heated in certain sectors of the Agile community. Differences led to conflict and some real heat inside certain online groups and blogs. When things got ugly, Jean Tabaka called out this tendency towards nasty conflict escalation in her blog post "Escalation is Killing Agile-- Please Stop It. Some time later Tabaka, with help from Liz Keogh and Eric Willeke, created the Community of Thinkers declaration.

The Agile community is very much a headless beast, and a marketplace--  where disparate ideas are discussed and often utilized side-by-side. The Oath of Non-Allegiance from Alistair Cockburn is in some ways a working agreement, by and between those who subscribe to it.

Pure democracy is not very efficient at scale, and the Agile community is large and getting larger. There is a gap. What we might be seeing here is the emergence of a new, higher-order form of community organization.

In this emerging organization form, those with substantial informal authority in the community utilize it to clearly specify community-wide, opt-in working agreements that might gain traction and become de-facto guidance at scale.

While the Agile Manifesto continues to provide community guidance, many have called for changes in the Agile Manifesto, to reflect new realities. For example, many observers note that the Agile Manifesto calls for "Responding to change over following a plan", while the Manifesto itself has not changed at all in almost a decade of existence.

The Agile community is a large self-organizing system. Is it possible that statements like the Community of Thinkers and the Oath of Non-Allegiance have emerged to fill a community-wide "guidance gap"?

Let's discuss it. InfoQ invites your comments on this article. 

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