12 Principles of Agile Adapted – Principle #8

Ah sustainability…that is what principle #8 focuses on. Not exactly the “green” kind of sustainability, but the kind where you can go at a pace and not be worn out.

Principle #8 says:

Agile processes promote sustainable development. 
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able 
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

This is an important one for me. I’ve spent a lot of my life as a working mom with a high-pressure job and an active kid. Burn out is a real possibility and something I’ve battled on multiple occasions. It is hard to bounce back from that feeling of burn out and it is quite depressing. As a result of my experiences, I have always taken this to heart with my teams. I also take this to heart with my family.

Last year my daughter was a junior in high school. This was the most stressful year of her life. Between AP classes, SAT testing, driver’s ed, college visits, and varsity athletics she was going at full speed the entire school year. To say she was burned out at the end of the year is an understatement. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but I still wish that we had taken a closer look at all that she was taking on and had her drop a few things. She spent most of the summer recovering from her junior year. That is why I was insistent that we look at what she can drop going into her senior year. My daughter is the kind of person who wants to do everything so it wasn’t easy to convince her not to, but as I see her grades and her overall mental health so far this year, I am confident that we are not on the road to another burn out.

I have also been working on letting myself do less. It is surprisingly not an easy thing to do without guilt, but I feel it is important to my mental and physical health. I am sleeping better and feeling happier.

The Agile IRL interpretation of this principle is:

An agile mindset promotes a focus on good mental and physical health therefore a life lived at a sustainable pace.

12 Principles of Agile Adapted — Principle # 7

Principle # 7 is short, but sweet. It answers the important question…how do we know we when we are succeeding?

The Principle is:

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

For my adaptation I have thought about this a lot of different ways and I think if I sat down to write this on 5 different days, I would settle on 5 different adaptions. This sentiment could be lent to family, friendships, career satisfaction, self-esteem, etc. As a matter of fact, I think you can easily substitute the word “software” for many different words and come up with a good adaptation. Working marriage? working car, working exercise routine…and on and on. Any area of our personal lives where we’d like to see progress fits.

However in the spirit of the principle itself I want to err on the side of keeping this broad. The word “software” can mean a lot of things and so I am going to equate personal goals in this instance. Personal goals are different to a person. For example, one of my personal goals is to complete the adaptation of all 12 principles before the end of this year. Not sure many other people could put that on their list, but if it is on yours and you happen to be reading this, I would LOVE to meet you!

Regardless of what your goals are, reaching those goals is a measure of progress in our personal lives. Maybe it is a new personal best run or a new song learned on the guitar. It all represents progress.

So, I am going with the following as the AgileIRL interpretation of this principle:

Reaching milestones towards personal goals is the primary measure of progress in our personal lives.

I definitely welcome feedback on this one as I struggled to come up with the right wording. As a matter of fact I welcome feedback on all of these. Please feel free to share your thoughts.

12 Principles of Agile Adapted – Principle #6

I think the spirit of this is completely appropriate in our world of texting, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.

The most efficient and effective method of 
conveying information to and within a development 
team is face-to-face conversation.

I know I am guilty of relying on texting or Facebook and Instagram to communicate with my family far and wide. I send updates on my family, on my job, etc. I have several old friends and family members who’s voice I have not heard in years, let alone see them in person. And yes, in some cases social media is a blessing for keeping up. No one has time to get together often and no one has time to chat on the phone. However, when it really counts and for the people who really count, it matters.

My brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew moved to Switzerland about 6 months ago. We’ve done a good job keeping up with each other over WhatsApp and Instagram, but they just came back for a visit and when they showed up at my door I hugged them so hard and I was crying. It surprised me how much I was overcome with emotion in seeing them. It felt like it had been years and not six months. It is the same feeling when I see other friends that flung far. (Becky, Karen, I am talking about both of you.)

The constant contact of social medial makes us underestimate what it means to share physical space with someone we care about. It is unavoidable to some degree, but it is important to remember to actually get together, in person when possible, to make that a priority for staying connected to those you love.

The AgileIRL interpretation of this principle is:

The most efficient, effective and human way to connect to and communicate with loved ones is through face-to-face conversation.

12 Principles of Agile Adapted — Principle #5

In my experience principle # 5 is one of the most difficult in corporate America. So often corporate culture is not one of trust. Lack of trust breeds lack of motivation and lack of engagement.

I also think this particularly applies to raising children.

Here’s the principle:

Build projects around motivated individuals. 
Give them the environment and support they need, 
and trust them to get the job done.

Helicopter parenting has become a real issue these days. I see it all around me and I admit I fall into the trap myself. We want the best for our kids, we want to ensure a smooth path to success. As a result we parents orchestrate all kinds of experiences around things we feel our kids should be interested in instead of letting their interests grow naturally. Of course it is good to expose kids to the variety of life but ultimately we need to let them choose what motivates them and trust that they will. Creating that environment of support and trust is crucial, but believe me I know it isn’t always easy and our kids don’t always earn our trust because, well, they are kids. My own daughter is 17 and there are many times when I am suspicious for no reason other than she is teenager and that is not always fair. I don’t pretend to be a parenting expert at all, but I think trust and support go a long way to raising grown ups.

Really when I think about it all the people in our lives that we love — our friends and family, deserve that same treatment of support and trust. We need to assume their motivations are good.

So my adapted version of this principle is this:

Give our loved ones trust and support to grow and follow their own motivations.

12 Principles of Agile Adapted – Principle #4

This one is easy and is probably why I started this blog in the first place.

Agile Principle #4 says:

Business people ad developers must work together daily throughout the project.

When my husband and I decided that we wanted to have a baby we nicknamed the trying and all the early days stuff “Project 3.” We used that nickname a lot and sometimes we still reference it (17 years later) with smile. It has been a highly successful project with a long-lasting team.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I do manage my family like an agile project. I hold a stand-up with my daughter most mornings over breakfast. She doesn’t know it, but I ask her what will be happening in her day and make sure all our schedules are coordinated for rides or games, etc. On Sundays we have family dinner and we go through a list of stuff we track progress on like college visits or exams or drivers ed – sound like sprint planning to anyone else?

My interpretation of this principle then must be:

Family members must work together daily when they live in the same household.

12 Principles of Agile Adapted – Principle #3

This one will require some interpretation to make it personal, but I think I can give it a go.

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale

I’m not a developer so I am not delivering working software in my personal life. Certainly not with any frequency at any rate. So…after turning this around in my mind for a bit I’ve arrived at this interpretation:

Take lots of small steps towards things you want.

This is exactly how my blog was born. I wanted to do some writing on Agile and my experiences applying it to my real life. The idea of writing a book crossed my mind, but as I began exploring the idea many roadblocks jumped up at me ad suddenly it was very daunting. When I switched to thinking about a blog, I was excited and got the whole thing up and live in a few short hours. Admittedly I have not been the most robust blogger, but I continue to make progress towards my goal on a regular basis.

The small steps are easy, or easier.

12 Principles of Agile Adapted — Principle #2

Looks like I am going in order because I know that’s the kind of person I am, but in the spirit of this principle, I am still reserving the right to deviate. That being said, here’s Principle #2″

Welcome changing requirements, even late in
development. Agile processes harness change for
the customer’s competitive advantage.

Welcoming change and expecting is, to me, one of the keys to Agile. It was what first drew me in when I finally realized there is no perfect project plan and no perfect set of requirements.

In life change can be a lot things from the plan for the day to finding a new job to a new haircut to a welcoming a new baby. Change can be hard and also exciting. If you google it you can find a million quotes about the inevitability and the necessity of change. Accepting this and embracing it are important to keep from stagnating.

We all have our routines and our patterns and our traditions, but I see this principle as a reminder that just because “that’s the way I’ve always done it” is not a good enough reason to not try something new. Being open to small things like a different kind of book than you usually read to big things like moving to a new country bring with the them so many possibilities. I could list so many examples of small, spontaneous decisions that made a huge, positive difference in my life right along side the bigger stuff. Saying “yes” can be magical.

Of course, we all make mistakes too. We choose the wrong path in one way or another, but being open to change means being able to reverse course on those situations as well. Obviously some things are more permanent, but there are always adjustments that can be made even if it is hard to do. You can free yourself by admitting you made a bad change.

So the second principle of AgileIRL is:

Welcome change – big and small. Being open to trying something new has the possibility to make a big positive impact.

12 Principles of Agile Adapted — Principle #1

Last week I was co-leading a training with one of my new colleagues. The class was 2 parts and the first part was a refresh on Agile basics including the Agile Manifesto and the supporting 12 Principles. Although the content of the presentation deck was not new, some of the exercises were. One of the first exercises we did was having the class break up into groups and distill the 12 Principles of Agile into 3 word statements. This worked really well, but also inspired 12 blog posts for me. My plan is to interpret each principle for use IRL (in real life) and not just at work.

I’m not promising to go in order, but for the first post I thought I ought to start with the first principle.

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Obviously this principle is about teams delivering value early and continuously. I’m not usually delivering “products” outside of work, but I am sharing and spending one very valuable asset — time.

I, like most adults, have a limited amount of free time so I want to get the most out of it that I can. This usually means I can’t get to every chore and I can’t do every fun thing either so I need to prioritize how I spend my time to achieve a balance between productivity and fun.

Errands and chores typically fall into 2 categories: immediate need or nice-to-have. Driving my kid to practice or buying new deodorant when I have run out is an immediate need, but cleaning out the coat closet and getting an early start on holiday shopping are nice-to-haves.

Social and leisure activity falls into similar categories: stuff you feel like you should do or stuff you really want to do. Too often I have said “yes” to something I didn’t really want to do, but felt I should, but when I do get the word “no” out of my mouth the guilt passes quickly as I enjoy more time doing what I want to do. Sometimes that means doing nothing.

So the first principle of AgileIRL is:

My highest priority is to satisfy the needs of my family and myself by ensuring that I spend my time effectively on both things I have to do and things I want to do.

Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy

Job hunting is not easy. It takes a lot of work and can be extremely frustrating. In most cases it is something that you have to work at. Despite the stories you’ve heard, jobs are probably not coming to find you. In any case, you are probably doing yourself a disservice if you don’t do some amount of research on what’s out there before deciding on your new job.

About a year ago I decided it was time. It was overdue really. I wanted to move on in my career and it was not happening for me. Just like waiting around for that new job to find you, waiting around to get promoted or advance in another way is foolish. These opportunities rarely find you, you have to seek them out.

The problem was I hadn’t looked for a job in a long time and every time I went online to look at job sites I would get lost down a rabbit hole and nothing truly productive would come of it. It was then that I realized that my show was not ready for the road. My resume was not up to par, my research on the market was non-existent and all I had was a desire for a new, different job.

And now that the ink has dried I feel like I can share how I used Agile principles to help me find an Agile job.

The first thing I did was cure the rabbit hole issue by committing myself to spending 2 hours every Sunday on my job search. This gave me both a cadence and a time box along with a commitment. Instead of just thinking about looking for a new job, I was going to actually do something about it. And I was going to try not to let it overwhelm me. I still had a full time job and a full time family. This was a major step for me and it really got the ball rolling and I noticed the difference in my willingness to say out loud to my friends and family that I was actively looking for a new job.

The next thing to do was to create my own backlog. What did I need to do to get myself ready to apply to jobs? My priority list looked like this:

  1. Research jobs that are out there that I think I want
  2. Narrow down the titles I am interested in to a manageable few
  3. Narrow down any other keywords
  4. Update my resume
  5. Choose job sites and set up my profile and searches on those sites
  6. Start submitting applications
  7. See what happens
  8. Keep trying

The research was fun and interesting and I was happy to see that there were some really interesting opportunities out there so the first few steps were pretty easy and quick. Unsurprisingly resume writing was difficult and time consuming. After several weeks I had a draft that I thought was pretty good, or at least good enough to get started. I actually used the particularly appealing job descriptions to help me craft my resume.

I started applying and at first I was getting some responses and even though they weren’t quite what I wanted I was hopeful, but the responses dried up quickly and so did my enthusiasm for phone screens/interviews for the wrong job. (At first it was really good practice though.) I was frustrated at my lack of progress. Around that time I came across one of those inspirational magnets in my local bookstore. It said:


This is derived from the Theodore Roosevelt quote:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

I bought that magnet and put it on my wall near my desk to serve as a reminder that this process was going to be worth it no matter how drawn out, painful and/or frustrating. I turned to it many times when I wanted to give up and thought of it as my goal – to get a job worth having.

I decided I had to inspect and adapt my approach since it wasn’t yielding the right results. I turned to some professional help for my resume and got some excellent advice on content and formatting as well as a decent cover letter template. I’m still not sure a cover letter ever gets read, but you usually still need one so I wanted mine to be good. This took some more time away from looking at actual job postings, but it was really worthwhile.

New resume in hand I applied for more jobs and I started getting somewhere, but still not quite where I wanted to be so I thought more about what I could do to improve my “product.” I started spending some of my time each week on my LinkedIn profile, on my profile on the job sites, and on tweaks to my resume. I added in a few more job sites, but this got really overwhelming so I trimmed it back. I also spent more time looking for companies I wanted to work for rather than just the job postings that showed up in my searches.  

Eventually I had something employers were interested in. The real interview process began. There were some false starts and some failed interviews, but each time got better and closer to what I wanted.

There is a point when you are interviewing when you just have to wait and see what someone else will decide about you. At that point I realized the best way through it was to keep looking and keep applying. You never know what is around the next corner and keeping up with it helped me to feel like I still had some control. Additionally continued response to my resume was a helpful reminder that I was wanted.

In the end I had 2 offers — both for jobs I wanted. After all the phone screens, interviews, leadership tests, etc. making that decision was the most stressful time of all, but I do believe that my process led me to a good place and although I could only accept one job, I don’t think I could have gone wrong either way.

This is a long post, but I will just summarize by saying that cadence, limiting work in progress (WIP), and continuous inspect and adapt cycles were key for me in my job search. Job hunting is NOT EASY. It takes courage and perseverance. Even so, I say, go for it.