Agility (and Learning Opportunities) Everywhere

People often ask “can I apply agile methods to something other than software development?” Since the basic appeal of agile methods is to acknowledge uncertainty by planning in increments, evaluating where you are relative to the plan and other forces, and planning the next increment, it seems like there should be no obstacle to following an agile approach for any project. The lurking question many have is “but can my type of project really be structured in an incremental way?”

While in general, I tend to believe that the answer is “yes,” it’s always good to have examples. So I was intrigued to head a segment on the radio show Living On Earth, where the rapper Baba Brinkmann described his approach to developing The Rap Guide to Evolution as “Performance, Feedback, Revision,” which is a very concise way to describe an agile approach. This meta-aspect of this also intrigued me, as Brinkman used the performance, feedback, revision theme in the evolution rap as well.

This is also another reminder of how software developers can learn much from many seemingly unrelated domains. As Rob Austin and Lee Devin explore in Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work managers, including software managers, can learn from theatre, and in Computers as Theatre Brenda Laurel discusses what interaction designers can learn from theatre.

So, yes, you can be agile if you are doing something other than software, and if you are developing software you can learn how to build software better by looking at other disciplines.