With law our land shall rise, but it will perish with lawlessness

The Agile Manifesto was written in February of 2001 by seventeen independent-minded software practitioners . While the participants didn’t agree about much, they found consensus around four main values. For those of you who are not aware they are as follows.

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

I think everyone working with Scrum or any other agile framework should be aware of the manifesto (if you’re not, shame on you).

But the Agile manifesto is nothing new. Working together and do something that is worth something for someone is a good idea. Knowing that a plan does not always work and things might change is good to know and react upon. For a while now the manifesto is used. As agile coaches we say that is good to be agile and not do agile and that is fine, but it is still a concept that for most newbees is hard to grasp. We work together and deliver software or something else but still clinch to old habits and ways of thinking. It is not easy to become agile and change your mindset overnight. And how can you become something if there is not a real example. Or if you like, there is not a real role-model. I like the way the first agile thinkers came up with this but I wouldn’t wanna be them. I’m not a Sutherland, Swabber or any other agile founding father (that sounded really scary). So how can you become something else without something to inspire you. It’s fine that you can work in a team and deliver high quality products to a happy and engaged customer, but that does not turn you in a agile minded person. So where can we find inspiration?

As I said, the manifesto is not something new. There is something that is much older and it originated somewhere in 10th century. Yes, more than a thousand years ago somewhere in the north of europe. Somewhere in the Norse world the first of these laws originated amongst the vikings. They were not made up with Agile in mind but with something else as a goal. They were written to conquer and rule. The vikings came up with the “Viking laws” and over the years they changed a bit. The Norse also were very straightforward incoming up with all kinds of laws and agreements on how to behave or life together. The very word LAW in English is a Viking word. After the vikings stopped their reign of terror and christianity spread, the laws changed and became less aggressive. But the first four basic laws are still very powerful. So what are they, and keep in mind that the sub-laws derived from the original four laws.

First law: Be brave and aggressive

Now this one strikes me as a good first rule when you are a warrior, but it can also be used in business. It is also very well usable in producing something. So what does it mean, Be brave and aggressive?

  • Be direct
  • Grab all opportunities
  • Use varying methods of attack
  • Be versatile and agile
  • Attack one target at the time
  • Don’t plan everything in detail
  • Use top quality weapons

Second law: Be prepared

Need I say more. It’s all about team and team dynamics. And to be prepared means you can do the following.

  • Keep weapons in good condition
  • Keep in shape
  • Find good battle comrades
  • Agree on important points
  • Choose one chief

Third law: Be a good merchant

This one could apply to product owners, salespeople and even managers. I think it should be an sales oath.

  • Find out what the market needs
  • Don’t promise what you cannot deliver
  • Don’t demand overpayment
  • Arrange things so that you can return

Fourth law: Keep the camp in order

Workplace, work environment and working together. And it is not just keeping you sprintboard up to date.

  • keep things tidy and organized
  • Arrange enjoyable activities which strengthen the group
  • Make sure everybody does useful work
  • Consult all members of the group for advice

If you read these laws with a working environment in mind it makes sense for your team and even your company. These simple laws worked for the vikings and admittedly they are written so they are a bit more acceptable for our thinking.  The vikings didn’t have a workplace or went out to find what the marked needed. And also being on the other side of the viking blade was not a really good place to be as they used these laws to plunder, pillage and rape. But for the vikings it worked. 
From now on I don’t print the Agile manifesto to be posted on the wall, I provide a cool poster with these viking laws. I think they are much better to understand and relate to. Because let’s be honest. I much more like to be associated with a tough viking then with one of the seventeen software practitioners who gathered in Utah to come up with the Agile manifesto. I’d rather be a Agile Viking then a Agile Coach. I think I will put that on my next business card.

Many thanks to Rolf Dräther from Happycentric.de for introducing me to the Viking laws.