I love my wife. No big surprise that I would say that publicly, on the record. We have been together for over 32 years, have 3 amazing daughters, and have managed to partner with each other through the good and bad times. Valentine’s Day is a great time to reflect on our great loves, smell the roses, and consume copious amounts of candy. When I think of who and what I love, I have to put Agile on the list, not so much because it pays my bills, but because it contains a lot of concepts that have made my best relationships possible. So, for the sake of this blog “agile love” is a real thing.
Communication is key to a great relationship. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development starts with valuing “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” Interacting with people IS communication. Whether it is verbal or body language, we are sending a message when we interact with each other. There are processes and tools that might help us communicate better, but we have to start with the idea that interacting with individuals is critical to relationships.
Communication is worthless if it lacks transparency. If we can’t be honest with each other, it’s just not going to work, whether we’re talking about my wife, or business people in the office. It isn’t always easy to admit that things aren’t going as well as planned, or that you set the cabinets on fire when you let the Pop-Tarts cook in the toaster unattended (true story), but sooner or later everyone is going to know anyway, and if you let them know up front, there might be time to do something about it (not the cabinets; they were still burnt).
Scrum (a framework that helps people pursue agility) has five values: Courage, Focus, Commitment, Respect, and Openness. It takes courage to be transparent (also referred to as openness), to do the right things, and to dive in to the tough issues in a relationship. The same goes for when you are engaged with a team of people at work. Focusing on common goals, committing to each other that you are a team and going to deliver what you promised, and treating one another with respect are important at work, and in love.
Speaking of love, not to get all mushy here; love is not just some warm feeling inside. It is “Working software over comprehensive documentation.” What? No, really. Love is an action, like delivering what you promised, even when it is difficult. It’s not just poetry and platitudes. In agility, we display how much we value our customers by regularly showing them working software. There is no doubt that a little poetry will score some points with your loved one, and some documentation is necessary in any software project, but if there is poetry with no deeds, or comprehensive documentation without working software, there is little value in it. Actions speak louder than words. Clients need to see value to be satisfied.
Beyond mere satisfaction, we should all aspire to delight our partners, and one way to do that is to collaborate with them. When my wife and I work together on something, we gain a deeper understanding of each other, and what we are looking for in our joint venture. The same applies to customers. When we work with them, we learn what is important to them, and it helps us deliver value to them quicker.
Last, but not least, embracing change has done wonders for my relationships. I am not the same person I was 32 years ago (and part of that is to my wife’s credit). That drinking, smoking, carousing idiot never stood a chance in the real world. There were some experiments I conducted (I have hazy memories of a wild night with Jack Daniels) that taught me, empirically, that some of my ideas were ill conceived, and I needed to move in a different direction. I could have been stubborn and stuck to my guns, but ultimately circumstances conspired to convince me to change. Agility encourages, ”Responding to change over following a plan.” Learning through experimentation and retrospectives leads to changes in the plan (before the raging hangover sets in). These changes bring value to the customer and saves the team from wasting time on unneeded features and code. Embracing change leads to simplicity, which is maximizing the work NOT done.
So I love my wife. And she loves that I am Agile. While I’m not saying you should hold hands in a circle and sing Kumbaya with your team, I am suggesting that as you practice agility, consider how to better exercise the values and principles it represents, not just around the office, but also in your daily life. It might make for a happier Valentine’s Day.
Esse quam videri,