Agile advice from our ancestors

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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Old sayings might not be the first thing which comes to mind when considering agility, there are many proverbs which are apropos.

Two heads are better than one (or the similar Maasai proverb "One head cannot hold all wisdom."): I've found this saying to be useful when presenting pair programming. Prefacing an introduction of the practice with this saying helps as people will generally agree with its merits so they are more likely to be receptive to the concept of non solo work.

Out of sight, out of mind: This proverb can be used when referencing traditional techniques for tracking and reporting delivery progress and contrasting those with the increased transparency which is encouraged with agile approaches. Most listeners will remember a time when a lack of visibility or shared understanding resulted in needless churn from one or more key stakeholders.

The wise do as much as they should, not as much as they can: Whereas traditional approaches might have encouraged gold-plating or feature bloat, this saying is well aligned with the tenth principle from the Manifesto: Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.

A stitch in time saves nine: Cost of poor quality increases when we don't take the time to identify the root causes for variations and merely inspect and correct. Shifting quality "left", reflecting on how we can improve our processes and then implementing improvement ideas quickly and developing quality-focused Definition of Done guidelines are all ways in which this saying is put to good use.

Cut your coat according to your cloth: Focus, like transparency is a pillar of Scrum and most other agile methods. Multitasking, building up too much work in progress or taking on more work items that we can complete in a quality manner are just a few examples of how we ignore the wisdom of this proverb.

Chickens should be seen and not heard: While we encourage stakeholders to visit and observe ceremonies such as standups or sprint planning, their purpose in attending is to learn and not to disrupt.

When we were younger, whether it was from our parents or our grandparents, chances are we heard a number of proverbs. While those might have been intended to impart wisdom to us during our formative years, they can also be relevant in our adult lives.

Posted on: June 09, 2019 09:41 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Enlightening proverbs to learn agile. Thank you for sharing.

I liked the publication, however, this phrase caught my attention:

The wise do everything they should, not as much as they can.

Actually, this refers to giving the least effort? this generates a small conflict regarding the code of ethics (responsibility)

Me gustó mucho la publicación, no obstante, esta frase me llamó la atención:

Los sabios hacen todo lo que deberían, no tanto como pueden.

En realidad, esto hace referencia a ¿dar el mínimo esfuerzo? esto me genera un pequeño conflicto respecto al código de ética (responsabilidad)

Refreshing post and very timely indeed, thanks for sharing Kiron! I cannot believe it, it’s almost mid year already towards 2020! :-)

Thanks Pang, Rami & Suzi!

Enrique - that quote and the manifesto's 10th principle are about doing the least required to achieve a desired result, not cutting corners when achieving that result. It aligns well with lean thinking.

Very Interesting Post. Thanks.

Good points and thanks for sharing, Kiron.

Very interesting article, thanks for sharing

I liked "The wise do as much as they should, not as much as they can."

This speaks to the Lean understanding of "overproduction" as waste. We'd all do well to remember this when defining the scope of a project or setting an iteration goal.

We can also apply this to planning. As project managers, we like to get all the details of a project up front so we can manage it, but the wise project managers plan only as much as they should before starting the work, knowing that changes will occur and details will emerge.

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"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."

- Plato