• Matthew Kaufman

The Agile Method: A Five-Minute Guide

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Stop being locked in. Get agile.

I wake up and get out of bed. I brush my teeth, wash my face, do all my other morning rituals, and then stumble downstairs to grab my breakfast and maybe a cup of coffee. I return to my office setup in my home, wake my work computer up, and then pop open our Sprint Task Board in Azure DevOps. I review the tasks that I accomplished yesterday, how long I estimated they would take, and look over the board and what I will be doing today. I also take a quick glance to see where everyone else is at and then hop in our morning huddle meeting. We all discuss our various progress of the previous day and what we hope to accomplish today, asking for help or mentioning pertinent details as needed. Every other week, we all attend a demonstration of what we’ve done and accomplished over the past two weeks as well as a meeting to retrospectively look over the past two weeks to see what was good and was not so good.

This is Agile Development...or at least my current team’s implementation of it.

Agile Methodology is all the rage currently in software development and has been for a while. It gives development teams of any kind the ability to tackle large units of work one piece at a time while also empowering them to have the agility and flexibility to deal with emergent issues or problems without causing a house of cards to fall. Instead of trying to build an entire house at once and then dropping it into place and hoping nothing ever needs changed, it’s about building each part of the house one step at a time, improving sections as they need it and leaving sections that are “good enough” as they are until such a time they too need improvement.

This isn’t just how I approach my workplace and software development, this is how I live my life.

Every week, a group of associates of mine and I sit down and do the same rituals that we would do at work. We look at our large upcoming personal goals, like hosting a podcast here for Chapter Of The Day, and break it into smaller tasks that are achievable within a single week time span. From there we tackle those tasks in our own retrospective lives. We review which ones we accomplished and completed successfully the previous week and where we plan to go next with immediately achievable items, overarching items, and such. This is Agile Methodology applied to our own personal lives and let me tell you how much it can enrich someone’s life.

We all look at life and see huge things we want to get done. But we also instinctively get afraid of the huge amount of work that they will require. Building that outdoor shed may seem like a great idea and something you want to do, but the amount of work it would require is so intimidating that it’s hard to get started. Not to mention how much time you’d have to set up so you can get it all done in a single time interval. So why not break it down a bit? You don’t try to assemble an entire puzzle at once, do you? No, you assemble it one piece at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your shed probably won’t be either. Breaking tasks into the smallest unit of work possible allows you to feel small amounts of accomplishment and makes daunting tasks into easily achievable goals. Additionally, by having someone or some way that you can constantly track your progress towards those bigger goals by accomplishing the smaller ones helps keep you an eye on when they might be fully done. Reviewing the little things you got done helps you acknowledge what actual work you got done this week, what work you’ll be doing this coming week, and it also lets you move items around if something happens that draws your immediate attention.

As you go through this next week, keep the Agile methodology in your mind and see if there’s places in your life where they could be improved by implementing a bit more of that mindset.

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