Blog: I Won't Be Agile Unless I Have To; and When I'm Done I'm Goofing Off

Blog: I Won't Be Agile Unless I Have To; and When I'm Done I'm Goofing Off

There's a saying that goes, "Those who cannot command themselves will be commanded by others" or something to that effect. The way I see it, agility is something I have to command myself to do because it is an otherwise unnatural act.

Why would I want to choose an option where I have to think hard, work hard, communicate continuously, stay super organized and let everyone see what I'm doing while I do it if I also have another option to just repeat cliches, attend meetings, generate reports, and hang out in my office and various other locations all the while dealing with the world through deliberately small bandwidth mediums like email and text messaging?

One commits me to focus like a laser on getting something done quickly, effectively and in public. The other doesn't tie me down so much and leaves lots of time open for other activities. One is like committing and then carrying through on a schedule to go the gym three times a week; the other is like committing to do a study to analyze my weekly calendar and its current time allocations to see if there might be some way to work in some visits to the gym on a schedule to be determined at the conclusion of the study.

I suppose the reason I command myself to be agile is because it's a good way to get a jump start and get stuff done; otherwise situations tend to get out of hand and I wind up being commanded to do things by others. I guess I like it better when I'm the one giving the commands.

However, I notice I'm most likely to obey my own commands when I balance the use of both options. I command myself to choose one option and at the same time I know I'm going to indulge in the other option in due course. I find I'm much more interested in being agile when I promise myself some serious time afterwards to goof off. I find the elements that go into making agility happen - creativity, focused mind, high level of interest, upbeat mood, and courage - all have a rhythm; they ebb and they flow.

Agility is a kind of flowing. I like to flow. And when I start to flow, I also have this secret, guilty pleasure in the back of my mind; it's the knowledge that when I'm done flowing I'm going to do some serious ebbing. I'm not going to call it goofing off because in the working world, in the hyper-competitive global real-time economy that we are all a part of ("Resistance is futile... you will be assimilated..."), we simply don't talk about taking time off or even slowing down, no.

Instead, in the back of my mind, at the same time I commit to start an agile system development project, I also commit to start a study of some real important situation the week after I complete my agile development project. And since I constrain my agile projects to 30 day iterations, I know I can handle the agility commitment for that period of time; it's not like I'm committing to agility forever.

Okay, so it does mean showing up at the gym three times a week come hell or high water and no excuses. But it's only for 30 days and actually I'll probably feel better for doing it. And if I'm feeling pretty good after the first 30 days I might just keep right on going and do another 30 days, what the heck. And all the while, I'm keeping score and figuring out how long that important study is going to take; that important study that I'm going to start as soon as I'm done being agile.

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