Old Ice Cream Containers
This is my pup Georgie playing with her favourite toy: a beat up old ice cream container she found in the garden when we moved into our new house.
She's got loads of other toys. Loads of 'em. We bought them all from a local pet store. There are pink ones, green ones, brown ones. There are ropes. There are balls. Some squeak. Some really squeak. Some don't squeak.
But none of them compete with that ice cream container.
We found the same when we had kids. We went out and bought one of everything. Cost us a fortune. Didn't need most of it. Probably the most useful thing was an old blanket we hung up over the curtains to keep the lights out, so the babies slept better. We should've bought proper black-out curtains but we couldn't afford them coz we'd spent so much on all the other crap.
More and more, as I get older and older, I'm finding that it's the boring, basic tools that's always worked that work best for me. White board markers. Pen and paper. Excel. Old, tried and trusted books. And, of course, conversations.
It bothers me that so many Agile transformations seem to start by trying to do the newest, shiniest things and by installing complicated software. My role-model for how Agile teams should work is the first team I worked on, way back in 1992. It was managed from a big old book, which was essentially a prioritised to-do list. We worked on mainframe COBOL. We didn't have testers so we programmers tested the arse of everything before we shipped. When we needed to ship we rang the operators (on a thing called a phone) and they released our well tested software. We all talked to each other, asked each other for help, and we chatted to our customers, a lot. We only automated what made sense. And, we laughed.
For me Agile starts with 4 things: (1) relentlessly prioritise then (2) deliver small chunks of well engineered, thoroughly tested software and (3) make space to improve. If you need to deliver stuff on time, then (4) plan pessimistically and pull stuff forward when you get lucky.
That's pretty basic. It's not sexy.
It's not even as cool as on old ice cream container, but repeat that over and over and it works.