Agile AdoptionAgile MethodsscrumSoftware Development

Agile Software Development and the P90X Fitness Program

Hello All,

I woke up on January 2nd and looked at myself in the mirror and was not happy with what I saw.  There was this 40 something (ok! late, late 40 something) guy looking back at me that was 20 pounds overweight, couldn’t see his entire belt buckle and couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing.  I knew there was a problem and I had to make a decision to revise my lifestyle.  I knew that my assumptions and behaviors as it related to my health were out of touch with reality (or perhaps they were very much in touch with the reality of the body I was staring at).  I realized that my measures for being a healthy person were out of whack.  I needed a new way of thinking about my health that would forever shape my behavior.

So, having heard about this new weight loss workout called P90X by BeachBody.com I logged onto their website and started reading about the program.  It offered such great promise to reengineer the way I thought about my personal health and well being that I ordered the program right away.  I couldn’t wait to get the DVDs in the mail.  This was my ticket to a “new me.”

When the DVDs and the manuals arrived I set my goals.  I read the documents like they were the word of God.  I vowed to stay true to the program.  It was a Saturday and I decided that DAY ONE would begin on Monday.

I arose on Monday morning bright and early with such enthusiasm.  This was the first day of the rest of my life and I was overjoyed that I had been selected by the heavens above to be in the club; thrilled that this program had found me and would change my life forever.

After the first 15 minutes I thought I was going to die.  My lungs had all but stopped functioning.  I was so light headed I thought I was going to have to call 911 but as I tried to dial, my fingers did not have the strength or coordination to push the right numbers.  I started to think about calling Beachbody to return the program for a full refund.  I was disoriented and stumbling around the room as I tried desperately to keep up or even just to keep moving.  I watched the physical specimens on the big screen TV in my basement perform the maneuvers with such ease.  I tried to replicate their movements but instead I looked like a three legged dog trying to swim up-current in a raging river.  My hopes for personal achievement were being overwhelmed by the sheer reality of the necessary changes that this program required.

After an excruciating hour I was lying on the floor in convulsions.  This was unbearable.  My body wasn’t supposed to move like this.  This was such a shock to my system that I never thought I would see DAY TWO.

As I began to recover and the world started to look a little brighter I proceeded to recommit to the program.  Tomorrow would be better I told myself.  So I struggled to climb the stairs out of the basement and began to prepare my meals for the day.  Yes, the P90X program was not just a program of excruciating workouts, but there was an entire nutrition program too.  Long story short, I could not imagine how I was going to survive this 90 day program without my usual beef burrito for lunch.  How would I survive without my Skittles?

“Decide, Commit and Succeed.” That is the mantra of the P90X program.  The program forces you to rethink personal health and fitness.  I had exercised and dieted off and on (mostly off) all of my life and had established routines that had only given me modest returns over the years.  But, they were familiar, comfortable, low risk and non-threatening. Generally speaking though, those old routines had essentially failed me.  They were the essence of why I was now looking in the mirror at an overweight, almost 50 year old, that could barely bend over to tie his shoes. But they were so ingrained in me that they dominated my perspective on personal fitness and therefore prevailed for many years.  But now there was this new program that had me doing things in different ways that were so foreign to my conventional way of thinking that I was ready to give up on it and fall back into my old, ineffective behaviors.

And that is when I started to think about the adoption of Agile:  A new program that speaks of great accomplishments and a new way of thinking about software development that causes a ripple (or perhaps tide wave) to traditional thinking.  A program that throws away old ways of thinking and behavior and introduces new perspectives that will hopefully take you to new levels and higher peaks of performance.  Reading and learning about it is so inspiring.  Come on, admit it.  Reading the Agile Manifesto must have caused a small tear to well up in your eye.  And of course reading Schwaber and Cohn and Sutherland, just plain and simple, gave you reason to continue the quest of software development excellence.

But then, after 3 weeks of your first Sprint of your first project you realize that you have ventured off into strange lands.  Your need for definitive explanations of features and functionality had you reaching out for the approved requirements documents that you clung to in the past.  You instinctively opened up your Microsoft Project application for guidance and wisdom.  You longed to find your Earned Value measures.  If you are the Scrum Master, you began to fall into the old habits of assigning tasks to team resources.  You freaked out when you realized that everything you committed for the first Sprint will not be done on time and you begin to look at scheduling evening and weekend work to fit everything into the Sprint. You began to sweat profusely when you considered that you must go to management and let them know that scope must be deferred to Sprint 2.  You sought to avoid that encounter as if you had committed some crime.  You started to bark out orders as you had in the past to get the Sprint back in line.  You look at the burn down chart and tried to find ways to get those nagging lines to merge.

When you finally come to the realization that this is impossible without heroics you pick up the Agile books, you refresh your memory of the Agile Manifesto and realize that you are not being true to the program.  The pain of change had you falling back on all of those strategies that had failed you in the past only because these new techniques and ways of thinking are counter to the way things have always been done.  It is difficult to break the mold in which you were formed.  So you stop convulsing on the floor, recommit to the principles of self directed teams, recognize that working software over comprehensive documentation is far superior and that responding to change rather than following a plan will lead to success.

Yes, change is hard.  Casting off old habits and ways of thinking is a painful process.  But to borrow the mantra from my new found fitness program, “Decide, Commit and Succeed.” Decide if Agile is right for your organization.  Commit to the principles of Agile and deny your urge to fall back on old habits.  And if you make it to the third or fourth sprint, a new, healthier paradigm for software development fitness will emerge and lead you to Success.

Pete

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