This has been an ideal, long before the Agile Manifesto was published. The notion of a “handshake deal,” has its own set of heroes and fables. The goal of a high trust relationship, even better a high trust network, is something that can be fostered or hurt at every turn.
The key for this item to be practical, as with every other element of the original Manifesto, is to understand the context of a given relationship and a given moment in time.
For example, skeptical participants early in a relationship may learn to trust each other and drop micromanagement processes that slow progress and create misunderstandings, but it may be critical in the short-term to demonstrate skill and excellence while more Agile working agreements become possible.
On the other hand, a chummy customer relationship and great team chemistry can be thrown into question by one offhand comment from a senior leader.
If one of us pays the bills and the other one does the work for hire, at any kind of scale or duration, contracts are far from irrelevant. The relationship between us and our prior experience, as well as the stakes, set the stage for what kind of an initial contract we’ll establish between us.
One of the benefits of following something like the Scrum methodology is that a series of contract-ish delivery cycles can happen without a lot of lag and renegotiation. With an agreed upon structure for how we’ll approach selection and prioritization of work, we can talk more about content, intended use, potential roadblocks. Short cycles and working agreements for planning, decision-making, work and review are a requirement for “agility.” Contracts and working agreements that can leverage this type of way of working enables less time and emphasis on the contracting piece of the equation, more on the value creation.
Agile Manifest will offer ongoing thoughts and suggestions about different approaches to contracts and informal negotiations we’ve seen, though the usual caveats apply : these observations are not legal advice and any contract language you would like to use in your situation should be approved by an attorney working on your behalf. If you are an attorney or part of a legal department who has explicitly worked on Agile contracts, or “more Agile” contracts, your comments below are welcome.