What The 5th Agile Principle Really Means

The Agile Manifesto has 4 principles. In Agile 2008, Uncle Bob Martin in his keynote suggested a 5th principle:

Craftsmanship over Execution

(Yes, I’m 3 years late for the party, but bear with me. This came to me as I’m preparing to my NDC talk).

All principles were written by technical people who emphasized communication and value for the customer. The fifth is different.  It’s intended for a subset of the group the rest of the principles aim for. Craftsmanship is for the coders.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? But wait…

I’ve been talking about how developers and business people don’t speak the same language. Miscommunication begets mistrust.

By declaring we’re the craftsmen (read: and you’re not!), we’re widening the gap that we’re supposed to bridge together for the customer. And  by separating ourselves apart from the rest of the agile team, once again we’re not considered team players.

And there’s less trust.

And we put ourselves at risk.

Ok, now it’s your turn – tell me I’m wrong.

3 comments on “What The 5th Agile Principle Really Means”

  1. Assaf Stone Reply

    I agree with you completely.

    Moreover, I think that “Craftsmanship over Execution” is really saying that good code is more important than working software, and that flies directly in the face of every thing that the Agile Manifesto stands for.

    I’d have to say that “While we value Craftsmanship, we value Working Software more…”

    Perhaps what’s really in order is to state that we value having 80% of the tasks being 100% done, over having 100% of the tasks 80% done.

    Now, let’s define “Done”…
    — Assaf

  2. Gil Zilberfeld Reply


    Thanks for the comment!

    Craftsmanship ain’t bad. It just needs to be applied for solving business problems, rather than stand on its own.

  3. Paul Hodgetts Reply

    Although perhaps Bob’s scope in proposing the fifth principle is largely technical, could we extend it to apply more broadly?

    I am probably imposing my own interpretation here, but what if we applied “craftsmanship” more broadly to “doing things well” and “execution” to “getting things done.” “Doing things well over getting things done.” “Doing things well” could be misinterpreted — I’m thinking minimally sufficient, but at least sufficient.

    I think Bob is making a call to action to stop rushing through things and hacking out any sort of deliverable, but rather to consider the long-term picture and do good work in the first place — build quality in.

    [And BTW… the capthca used on this site is excessive. 🙁 ]

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