Early on with BrightGauge it used to frustrate me to all hell when I would make mistakes or when I would be presented with a seemingly larger than life challenge/decision. It wasn’t until a year ago when we truly implemented an agile software development process that I realized the same agile framework could be applied to the rest of my professional life…and personal life too. You may be thinking, “wow, Brian has really gone off the edge if he’s now applying software principles to his personal life” but trust me, it works magic. You can read about agile online (favorite blog here) but here are three high level principles summarized in a way for you to see how it applies to more than just building software.
In agile it’s all about making incremental improvements with a continuous review / feedback loop on those changes. You start by making the best decision with the information you have and implement something small based on those decisions. If the implementation doesn’t work, whether now or in a year, you just make another decision to refactor that implementation to make it work in the world you live in at the current moment. You have to continually talk about what went right/wrong on a regular basis to ensure you’re not stringing together a bunch of bad decisions or that you’re not in over your head with what you’re implementing. But the general beauty is that since the implementation is only an incremental change, one bad implementation or decision shouldn’t sink your ship.
Breaking Down Large Challenges
Incremental improvements, you may think, makes it hard to take big swings or make big decisions. For example, on a personal level, you could consider changing careers as a big decision. The problem with a decision like changing careers is that it’s overwhelming and/or too risky from the start. Thinking agile, you would never switch careers one day to the next. Instead, you would do side projects, take night classes, take vacation to spend a week in your dream job, etc. Those are all small changes that move the ball forward toward making the job switch. By breaking large challenges into bite size chunks, you get smarter which each incremental improvement and therefore minimize the big risk once it’s time to change that career. (Note: when getting engaged or married, don’t buy half a ring or something and say “Brian said to start small”. Every process has its exception. 🙂 Go big on that!)
Getting Smarter Every Day & Therefore Staying Flexible
The most fulfilling part of agile is the guiding principle that by doing incremental changes every week or sprint, you are (or should be) continually getting smarter. When you make mistakes, you just learn from them and move on which minimizes the paralysis of fear of making mistakes. And while you’re getting smarter with each day and each week that passes, the world is also changing around you. So by doing incremental changes you’re flexible enough to change course if needed based on new information or lessons learned.
The agile process has been a phenomenal framework for us at BrightGauge and I must add a caveat that it’s worked really well because the team is mature and has bought into the process. Though we all love the “big swing” stories, we’ve realized there is something beautiful about getting better every day and letting all the incremental improvements add up to the awesome product, team, person we are today.