Friday, September 7, 2012

Does the Manifesto matter?

I recently had the chance to interview candidates for a position on my team.  I put together a list of questions that I believed would be a unique and effective way of phone screening candidates.  Without giving away the whole list (I may disclose it later), here are the first two questions:

  1. Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.
  2. Are you familiar with the Agile Manifesto?

I had two out of seven candidates that I phone screen answer in the affirmative to question 2.  Now not being familiar with the Agile Manifesto isn’t necessarily uncommon, I guess.  But the inconsistency came from the answer to the next question:

“What Agile practices are you familiar with and/or have used?”

I figured the answers would be “I haven’t used any”.  Because if you have done “Agile practices” you’d certainly know what the Agile Manifesto is, right… right?


the answers were mostly in the “like, Scrum? Stand ups? Yeah, we do that stuff on my team.”

So… these candidates had presumably been introduced to the term Agile, to some Agile practices but hadn’t taken the time to investigate further, to understand the roots of the Agile movement, to do a quick Google search!  Granted none of them had incredible answers to the Agile practices question, but they did have answers.

I guess I just don’t get it.  I mean, I do.  But I don’t.

Would this matter to you?


  1. I don't get as bothered by people not knowing about the Agile Manifesto; after all, the Agile methodologies predate the Manifesto, so obviously people were at one time doing what we now call Agile, without a Manifesto to guide them. I do get bothered (and I sense the same frustration in your post) when people don't know or don't care _why_ they are doing certain practices.

    This seems a poor reflection on how we "preach Agile" to people. Your candidates have most likely had Agile inflicted on them. It would be nice if they'd wondered "what's so great about Agile" and looked it up, but it would be even better if their "Agile change agents" had simply told them.

  2. Yes, there is failure on the end of the "preacher" as well as the "congregation".

    And like you point out, the frustration is less around the manifesto, but around the values. I should have asked "Are you familiar with the values of Agile software development?" and I may have been less discouraged.

    Regardless, asking about the manifesto is a form of "Shibboleth" because familiarity with the manifesto values (and attitude towards) is a "short cut" to a set of beliefs. (For reference another question was around familiarity with Software Craftsmanship and Uncle Bob... another good "Shibboleth").

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