Sunday, May 08, 2005

Agile Mothering

I am a big fan of Agile. Numero Uno I have seen it work very well. It thrives on chaos which is the nature of the corporate beast. Systems and process that need perfect environments to work are more than likely to fail.

Business will not know their collective mind until after the product has been delivered. Requirements will evolve and devolve over time. Show-stoppers will turn nice-to-have and vice-versa and a successful program is one that changes gears without missing a beat.

Executive sponsor attention span for their pet projects is shorter than the proverbial gnat's. Without visible progress and results in the short-term that diminishes further. Budgets get hacked arbitrarily and without prior notice.

Elegant code and design exist more in theory and less in practice - there is never enough time to follow prescriptive best practices that get written about in white-papers and scholarly tomes. Contract programmers are a fickle lot - here today, gone today. Agile takes the bull by the horns and attempts to make the most with what little can be assumed for the duration of a "sprint".

At the end of a short iteration there is a tangible end result. Business likes seeing how far the dollar has traveled and in how long. Their interest in the project gets stoked frequently pre-empting amnesia. Chances are in a "program portfolio rationalization" effort the Agile project will remain blessed.

One Agile practice that I particularly like is that of roles being mutable. The formal title is too short-lived for anyone to get hung-up on it. It can be empowering to be managed and manage by turn. There is increased empathy for demands of particular roles within the team. In a competitive market a team member with a versatile skills and ability to change hats seamlessly is likely to survive the most number of "smart-sizing " efforts.

I didn't realize when I brought a little Agile home with me. It started out as a game J and I played. J would be Mommy and I would be J for a little while. I would make the same crazy, unreasonable demands of her as she does of me. J mothers me after her own fashion.

Demands are always met when J is Mommy - that is obviously what she expects from me. While the message is amply clear I can't use it. Interestingly, if I start being a very difficult "J", she will ask to end the game and go back to being our real roles. J recognizes the challenges of mothering J equally and does not have any more answers than I do.

While I have not found smart solutions for moods and tantrums, I have gained amazing insights into how J thinks. Since she mimics me faithfully, she shows me what I am doing wrong from a child's perspective. Playing J helps me see myself as a three year old does and no parenting lesson can be more valuable than that.

Two thumbs up for Agile !!

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