Agile and it’s antecedents. The more you know…

The road to catching up with all the shiny new things continues. This time it’s an ‘Introduction to Agile’ session at RMIT Activator.

The Activator is an incubator and it is the place for getting a brief introduction to almost anything that you’re not quite sure about, and want to get the low down on.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. (Although I do advocate that you BYO tea bags as the kitchen has mugs and hot water but no other provisions.)

RMIT’s Vice Chancellor Mr Bean ushered in the word ‘microcredential’ during the ‘Will Robots Eat Our Jobs‘ event and I’m predicting that RMIT’s teaching innovations will cause its graduates to rapidly rise up the employability rankings, because they’re all about gaining breadth knowledge and real world experience while you study your undergraduate degree.

Yes friends, that elusive mix of management insight and technical skill that universities previously didn’t teach you, because they were hoping you’d do what I did, and come back and do post-graduate studies, is now no longer. Industry has spoken, as has people’s willingness to forgo having a house in favour of paying back study debts, the way some did.

On to the subject at hand though:


  • For a high level, jargon-free version of what Agile is, here’s the Wikipedia entry.
  • Agile is team work, Tuckman and Deming blended and rebranded;
  • Lean is the mindset or ecosystem Toyota used to come up with ‘Just in Time‘ manufacturing ;
  • Electronic media is undermining people’s willingness to read, research and accurately understand and correctly cite academic antecedents (like the ones above).
  • Don’t take the knowledge I earned studying my Masters degree and snort laugh at it!

What did I learn?

That my Masters degree is still golden.

If you, like me, have studied an MBA or a Masters in Public Policy and Management, and taken it seriously (because it’s what you did instead of buying somewhere to live, for example,) then the one new thing and the fun new game that you most need to know how to play is ‘what strange, new name has someone rebranded what *I* learned to?’

The frameworks you know as:

  • plan do review;
  • forming, storming, norming, performing;
  • thin flat teams;
  • lateral thinking;
  • Just in Time;
  • process re-engineering; and
  • social action research;

(and probably others,) all have fun new names that are designed to make you deeply concerned that you may be out of touch, and irrelevant, when in reality the reverse may be true.

I’d like to think that the investments I’ve made in myself, in my studies and in acquiring wide experience, are at least a respectable match for a training company looking to sell me further professional development.

I have three and a half degrees: two bachelors, a Masters and a half a law degree, and not to harp on it, but they’re all paid for. Instead of doing something sensible, like buying somewhere to live, I learned. I learned a lot. I studied and I read and I compared and I contrasted and I found out the hard way that if you want the really good marks, then you really, really need, as a first port of call, to be capable of sourcing, quoting and citing respectable literature, accurately. This is especially the case, if you’re mounting an argument that completely contradicts your lecturer, and you want to get away with it.

If there is one thing that social media and short attention spans seem extremely ill suited to doing, it has to be the art of writing and researching ideas properly.

Hand on heart, I don’t mind hearing what you have to say, but please, please my millenial friends, don’t pass yourself off as an expert.

Please. Just. Don’t.

If you are someone who:

  • cannot tell your audience who or what the Deming of the ‘Deming cycle’ slide that you apparently cut and pasted from the internet and just projected on the wall refers to;
  • have cited both 7 Eleven and Amazon as virtuous paragons of ideal organisational culture several times now; and/or
  • don’t have any actual software development experience utilising Agile (which is as much as I do know about the origin story of the Agile method*) to speak of because your boss doesn’t think it’s important,; or worse
  • think that no one has ever given social action research a burl before, to know that it’s controversial; or that it’s been discredited and rejected as expensive, unreliable and open to abuse, we are going to need to work through all of this, before we start to see eye to eye.

I am not up for my everyday existence being turned into a snake oil fume fuelled advertorial from the Woopreneur school of confidence-artistry. I spent close to a year explaining this exact problem, at length, to a cluster of self proclaimed digital nomads who didn’t watch the news, and I am looking forward to being so old that people expect me to be mean and step out in front of cars without looking.

I am asking you to treat me with the respect that I have shown you. And for now at least, I am doing it nicely.

I’m going to go on the record with this, this, this…. objectionable, minimising, dehumanising feeling of being more than just a little put out by the treatment of me as being too old to be taken seriously when I say things like ‘that’s not new‘ to someone who gets all their information from social media, Goop and fictional news breaks featured within sitcoms and movies on Netflix.

Please don’t take the knowledge I earned studying my Masters degree and snort laugh at it. To find you snort laughing at me and my hard work and the hard earned knowledge that it resulted in, is not very nice. It’s ignorant and disrespectful.

What is they say about people who don’t learn the mistakes of history?

Agile is a software development tool, but like all good organising principles it’s just one way of looking at a problem.

It’s origins lie in the problem graphic designers know all too well, that the client doesn’t know what they want, but they do know what they like and wouldn’t it be great if just once everyone was on the same page, so that professionals stopped missing the mark with products that don’t meet client expectations.

ON that note here is something that might help with that. And it’s for clients.

How do design a great brief: THIS Monday PM

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