Let’s call 2001 the dawn of modern times.
Politically it wasn’t a win: Australia had a shocker. The US refused to sign the Kyoto protocol and began the War on Terror. 180k gallons of oil leaked into the sea at the Galapagos Islands. Foot and mouth disease made a comeback in the UK.
Big business was failing: Ansett and Enron imploded. Market conditions would steadily decline into the global financial crisis of 2007-08.
Joey Ramone died.
It was pre-Facebook. Pre-Myspace. Windows was up to XP.
2001 was bleak.
But Wikipedia went live that January, and in February there were 17 web devs and software guys who had a ski weekend in Utah.
They emerged with a manifesto, and when they introduced the Agile Manifesto to the world, it changed.
They were combating the before.
The before was the ‘waterfall’ nature of software, where someone would have an idea, write a business case, add guidelines and boundaries and stick with it into production, with little to no understanding of likely success.
They wanted the after.
They wanted to be genuinely customer focused, collaboration driven, and creative of a place that inspires creatives to do their best work.
In 2011 the Wall St Journal published an essay by super famous venture capitalist and contrarian (he’s long been long on bitcoin) Marc Andreessen. It’s called ‘Why Software Is Eating The World’.
This famous essay argues that pretty much all tangible artefacts have been turned into digital commodities (music, books, maps, photos) which are themselves software.
Practically every transaction is done in software (even cash comes from an ATM).
Software is built by teams, and since 2001, software teams have increasingly been Agile.
So, the Agile principles.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
In practice it’s cool. It’s fast-paced.
Work is completed by scrum teams who are led by a scrum master. It’s divided into two week sprints in which goals are set and reviewed to determine velocity and how much a team can output. Tasks are recorded on post-it notes and tracked on visual boards. Nobody gets sentimental. There are no darlings to kill. Meetings are held daily with the scrum team standing in a circle and everyone gets to speak. A minimum viable product (MVP) is created, in which a basic product is released to the market so customer feedback can happen earlier and iteration much more quickly.
When Agile skied down the mountain in 2001, it helped software to have consumed the world by 2011.
it steadily grew into a force that had at least spread to the tech disruptors by 2011. Now it’s reaching corporate business and government, and the biggest banks, government departments, and businesses are adopting its methods. Even Malcolm Turnbull tried to make it a thing.
Here’s the thing about Agile, though.
It was created by seventeen dudes on a ski weekend. Their shared concerns were the shared concerns of white males in prestigious positions at their respective tech firms or academia.
Know what would have been cool to add to the Agile manifesto? Equal representation and equal pay.
Nonetheless, there are fun applications for using Agile in a non-workplace setting to make life a tiny bit easier. A little more, ahem, agile.
Post-it notes make tasks digestible, less intimidating when there are a lot of them. Write your to-do list on post-it notes and stick them somewhere you see often.
Be realistic about what you can achieve in a short amount of time, and just do that.
Review things, often, to see what’s working and what could work better. Don’t be sentimental.
Set an MVP. Go to the gym twice this week. Set a stretch goal. Go to the gym three times this week.
Make the phone call. Don’t send the email. Go to the source, not to Google.