By Brian Lucas
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao-tzu
I have received so many emails and phone calls (how did all these people get my cell phone number) since I started this blog. The majority of them are from people who are in their first agile project. They are struggling with various issues, many of which most experienced agile practioners have faced at one time in their careers. These problems are generally easily corrected with advice and mentoring. Some of their problems were absolutely fascinating and truly unique requiring a lot more thought. Fortunately, these were only a handful.
A common theme has emerged. It a fact that agile has been around for quite a while. Agile is also highly touted as a buzzword that everyone (who is anybody) is expected to know. This has led to a certain hesitation of expression in those beginning agile for the first time. They don’t want to sound ignorant by asking basic questions. I have a very Socratic view of interrogatories of this nature which is the wisest person is the one who knows what he doesn’t know. So abandon your fears and ask away with confidence.
Unfortunately, the experience of too many of these agile novices who have recently reached out to me is one of constant struggle with organization politics, resource constraints and fixed “non-agile” Machiavellian mindsets. This has left them confused about agile, bewildered why others are successful and they are not and generally feeling like walking wounded. Even some experienced practioners have adopted the attitude of not advocating agile until someone comes to them (usually in deep trouble) and asks them about agile. This is not a stance I can condone because it is not proactive. So many leaders like Jack Welch advocate change before you have to. Remember no one has ever led by following!
I am not going to recount my first agile project here. Suffice it to say it was so long ago, I was not even aware I was working in an agile fashion, since the term had not yet been popularized. I worked on the project in an agile fashion out of necessity much in the same manner that Mike Cohn developed his User Story concept. It seemed natural to me at the time because I was being pressed for rapid results; not because I was following a prescribed methodology. So much has changed since then that my recollections would have the flavor of a “when I was your age” story that I suspect would make some of you feel it lacks relevance to your current situations.
So this post is for all you novice agile practioners! I want to hear your problems and questions which I will try to address with specific and detailed advice. I would also like to hear when you are successful, whether you followed my advice; someone else’s, learned from a book or tried something on your own. Asking your questions can benefit others so fire away. We can always go offline if you need to be discreet. The most important lesson I can impart to people learning something new is not to let silence mask their ignorance. So till next time, remember to keep agile!
 Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was an Italian historian, diplomat, philosopher, humanist and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He was one of the founders of modern political science. He was a true renaissance man being a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic. He wrote his masterpiece, The Prince, contain the following famous quote: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”
 An original quote, humor intended.