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Posts tagged with: Agile

Agile in Life

When the above TED Talk by Bruce Feiler came out, I didn’t even have a clue about Agile development practices, and more-over, I didn’t know how such a thing as project management could apply to family living. As a father of four, I salivated over the thought of my own children taking responsibility for anything let alone their own punishment, and I have been racking my brain on how to make this work for my own family. Since then, while I haven’t had any luck getting a 2, 4, 6, and 8 year old into this mindset, I have seen a marked difference in attitude when I have had them choose the chore they were responsible for on any given day.

Can this same principal work in education? Can it be applied to group projects in Science? History? In kindergarten, we all sat as a group at a table. Why did this practice end late in Grade School and especially High School? It seems that we are rooted to our Victorian education style, and that the next generation would benefit greatly from more group related education and team building projects.
I think Agile methodologies can be applied to just about every aspect of human interaction, by allowing people to choose the value that they bring to the table. After all, various living elements once came together to form the cell, and cellular systems are possibly the most successful in the known universe.

Perhaps a Scrum team can be viewed much like a cell, with each part of that cell doing it’s part for the whole, and as these cells work together, a company or organization can thrive. After all, we see how well small franchises work. Small teams of 5-10 people operate in a group, and if the group works well and there are enough resources within the market to sustain them, then they are successful. Each bases its business model on the genetic code of the larger organization, doing what it can to survive while passing some of that success up the chain.
From a top level standpoint, however, their success benefits the organization, but their failure does not kill the organism. If the organism dies, it is because its cells were not allowed to fulfill their function, whether by a lack of environmental resources (food, water) or a failure of the nervous system to allow these cells to do their jobs (self destructive behavior, poisoning the system with drugs and foods that satisfy the nervous system, but suffocate the body, like certain management practices, or overpaid CEOs, harmful price fixing and hefty product costs. I’m looking at you Quiznos.)


Agile in Business

Agile Development Poster

Over the years, I have worked for several companies where software development was at the core of their product offerings. As a Software Support Engineer, I’ve worked closely with the development team, and witnessed project management first hand. Some of the teams were small, only a few individuals with one level of management. These teams tended to work well, even without using any formal project management ideology. These teams were more like families than co-workers. Their relationships extended beyond the office walls, and none were afraid to speak their mind. Each was willing to speak up with what they had to offer, and ready to take on the tasks assigned to them. The methodology of this smaller team was “whatever it takes to get the job done,” and the company prospered. There was a limit to this cooperation, however, and it had to do with size. As the company grew, so did the projects, and the naturally scattered free-for-all methodology that had been so successful in the past, began to create bottlenecks in development velocity.

This leads me to a particular example that outlines the tragedy of cowboy-development, when it doesn’t turn out the results expected. A pair of brilliant developers were assigned the task of converting a Windows based application to a web based application using the latest ASP.NET architecture in the spirit of creating a platform independent contact management product. They were given their parameters and sent off to complete the project on their own. The project manager at the time was the CEO himself, and he thought he was clear on what he expected from the project. The developers also thought he was clear on what was expected. But at the end of several months worth of development, it became apparent that those expectations had not been communicated as clearly as they could have been.
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