We Were Born Agile

No child learned to ride a bike by reading books about it, nor by rigorously documenting all of the steps that will be required in order to do it, planning those steps, then executing those steps. Children learn to ride a bike by experimentation and incremental improvement; they learn by taking minor risks fearlessly until they pay off.

Everything we learn as a child is done iteratively, incrementally…agilely. We learn to walk in tiny experiments, we learn how to read in the same way, most of us learn how to act socially (for better or for worse) by that same spirit of experimentation. As we get older, we learn to refine the experiments, but the experiments live on. At some point, we pitch experiments in favor of Gantt charts in MS Project. We spend countless hours learning about critical paths, fishbone diagrams, Monte Carlo analysis, and cost performance indices precisely because they are not intuitive. Documentation doesn’t come naturally. Long-term planning isn’t our natural state.

Our natural state of achievement is to do so agilely, so I bristle slightly when I hear that various forms of iterative delivery are difficult to learn; they shouldn’t be. Doing what you can and advancing forward bit-by-precious-bit is innate. While it is true that the accoutrements of frameworks like Scrum require a certain degree of education (especially in areas like vocabulary), the fact of the matter is the concepts are fairly elementary.

If your implementation is difficult to understand—especially if it is significantly difficult to grasp—perhaps you should be asking why you chose to make it so complex? Maybe there were good reasons, but shouldn’t you be consciously aware of those tradeoffs?

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