As the Agile Manifesto approaches its 10th anniversary, SD Times is speaking to several of its authors to discuss the gathering at Snowbird, what perspective they brought to the meeting, and what they might do differently. The 12 original authors will reunite at the Agile Alliance Conference this August in Salt Lake City.

In this installment, we speak to Jim Highsmith, executive consultant with ThoughtWorks.

SD Times: What was your reason for attending the first gathering at Snowbird?
Highsmith: There was an earlier meeting, about nine months before the manifesto meeting, of Extreme Programming proponents at Kent Beck’s in Oregon. Several “outsiders,” including Alistair Cockburn and myself, were invited to that meeting.

The discussions were about promoting XP. I remember walking along the riverbank, talking with Kent and his musing about whether or not “extreme” was too extreme for a brand. I quipped, “What would you call it Kent, ‘Moderate Programming?’ ”

I attended the Snowbird meeting as a follow-up. I knew about Scrum, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), Feature-Driven Development, and a few other “light” methodologies as they were called at the time. There were enough similarities that I thought it was worth taking a couple of days to discuss our approaches and see what happened. There was very little content planning other than several people wanted to come up with a better name than “light methodology.”

At that point, I’d been working on these issues for nearly 10 years and often felt lost in the wilderness. I figured—and was right—that getting that many somewhat like-minded people together would be a great support system for all my radical ideas.

_What area of development had you been working on, and how did you see it meshing with the other efforts going on at that time? Are you still working to advance that specialty? Where is it at today?
I had been working for nearly 10 years on what I was calling Adaptive Software Development, although early on I called it RADical Software Development. I did a bunch or early 1–6-month projects (using 1:1 week-to-month iterations), many of them with colleague and friend Sam Bayer.

I did a project for a major retailer in the mid-1990s. In the previous aborted effort on the project, they spent 18 months doing requirements definition. I helped them do a 6-month project that brought the project back from the brink. At the first iteration feature showcase, the division VP was blown away by having a few stories up and running—especially after the previous fiasco.

In December 1999, about a month after Kent’s “Extreme Programming” book came out, my “Adaptive Software Development: A Collaborative Approach to Managing Complex Systems” was published. The original title of the book was “RADical Software Development,” but I kept thinking something was missing. That missing link turned out to be Complex Adaptive Systems theory, and so I substituted “Adaptive” for “RADical.” Much of that book is about management theory rather than software development. I called the new approach Leadership-Collaboration management as distinct from Command-Control management.