What’s So Special About Agile?

SpecialButtonAdmit it.  You enjoy telling people that you’re an Agile “practitioner”, “coach”, or “evangelist”.

It’s OK – I do too.

I also enjoy reading a well-researched article in, say, the Harvard Business Review or the Wall Street Journal that validates what we do every day in the Lean-Agile community.  It shows that they want what we got (and sometimes, vice versa).

But I recently happened across the April 2011 issue of Real Simple magazine, the riveting theme of which was “Spring Cleaning”.  My curiosity as to how that subject could possibly warrant an entire issue led me to thumb through the pages until I came across an article entitled “This is Your Brain on Procrastination”, written by Amy Spencer.

The article presented the following list of things to do in order to get important things done around the house:

  • Do the worst thing first (you won’t have the energy to do it later)
  • Start your day over at 2:00 PM (assess and adjust regularly)
  • Make the job smaller (and do it just “good enough”)
  • Create an audience (make yourself accountable)
  • Race the clock (see how working in short, timed bursts affects your productivity)
  • Don’t interrupt yourself (or let anyone else do so)
  • Plan an unprocrastination day (prioritize and then immediately DO)

Sound familiar?  I thought so, too.

Yes, three years ago, guidance for which people still pay good money to be Agile-certified was published in an article on getting ahead on household To-Dos.  That tells me that maybe Agile isn’t so special anymore.

I think that’s actually a good thing.

Why? Because I noticed a long time ago that most of us tend to use one system of thinking at home, and another when we’re at work.  It’s almost as if we swap brains somewhere between the front door and the driveway.

For example, Home Brain says, “I have only so much money and so much time, so I’m going to have to accept the fact that I can’t have both a new refrigerator AND a new fence.”

Work Brain says, “Based on our best information, I know we can only really do the fridge. Tell you what: I’ll throw the fence in as a ‘stretch goal’.”  (Home Brain’s too smart for that.  He knows what stretch goals turn into.)

My efforts over the last several years, to a great extent, have been focused on simply getting people to take their Home Brains to work with them.  The addition, now, of even informal Agile thinking to Home Brain’s innate clarity and common sense will make it that much more valuable at work.

So what if Agile’s mysteries are being divulged to the uninitiated as they stand in the supermarket checkout line?   If value-oriented and throughput-focused thinking can permeate such mundane areas of our lives as decluttering a closet, then the the way we are trying to shape how we think at work will become more similar to how we think at home.

That should make bringing an Agile mindset into the workplace more natural.  I’m OK with that, even if it means Agile loses some of its status in the process.

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3 Responses to What’s So Special About Agile?

  1. Satish Thatte says:

    I love the advice of avoiding Home Brain and Work Brain dichotomy. Agile/lean practices can be applied to home chores, and common sense used at home chores can be brought to bear on work at office. Similarly, it would be nice to have a single value system at home and at work. Think about its implications. Life will be simpler, streamlined, less schizophrenic and less stressful.

  2. Mike says:

    A Kanban board on the fridge works great for household chores. It can also be a great way to reward kids at the end of the week for helping out.

    • Lee Cunningham says:

      I agree, Mike. I use a kanban board at home, myself, and find that as I use it at home, I get ideas for improving my kanban board at work. Thanks for your feedback!

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