By Brian Lucas
“Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be.” –Harriet Beecher Stowe
A post of mine, “HCM, HIM and Agile are Perfect Together“, had the following reply from Dave Francavilla:
Very comprehensive! What I love is that the basic common theme is derived from simple common sense. The entire world seems to have taken the focus off basic common sense and basic principles of business.
I see Agile as coming to our senses…
Many of today’s businesses suffer from the same lack of basic understanding.
Thanks for your clarity.
This got me to again think about the history of agile which I explored in my webinar, “Is Agile a Fad or an Evolution”, available on the ITMPI web site. The question that I asked myself was, “In the past, from ancient to recent, was there more common sense than there is today.” My method of examining history is to relive it. To travel back in time and become a part of the history that made the world in which I live…
Athens, 423 BC, it is a dry and hot August. It is an ancient city already; first inhabited in the Neolithic period. The violent rains of the wet season are yet to come. The breeze from the west which will turn violent then, is now only mild. On the hill of Pnyx the Athenian Assembly is meeting. The fragrant scents of wine and spices float through the market squares, along with the many voiced sounds of brisk trade. The almost edible, green smell of olives permeates the air in the Agora, the commercial district and social center of the city that lies north of the Acropolis or high city. The many branched olive shrubs, with their rough thick bark are everywhere. Their green/silver leaves shine in the heat of the noon day sun. The stream called the Eridanus, oblivious to the vibrant market activity; flows sluggishly through the city from its birth in the foothills of the Lykabettos on its meandering way to Kerameikos.
I am just inside the colonnade of the Stoa Poecile or “painted stoa” on the north side of the Agora. I am sitting on a marble bench, behind a trellis, festooned with grapes. Along with the simple, yet elegant fountain, adds a cooling touch to the square. There are rows of shops and offices lining the back wall, which is decorated with murals. I am admiring one of Theseus battling the Amazons. I take a sip from my goblet of wine. It is seeped with borage leaves which gives it a slightly minty cucumber taste and sweetened with flowers which give it a honey-like flavor.
Socrates is holding forth in a crowd of citizens, mostly young aristocrats. He is using elenchus with gentle, yet determined efficiency, to destroy the puffery of the young son of a wealthy Archon. His series of questions, each one built upon its predecessor, point out the fallacy of the youth’s pedantic belief. The brilliant irony of Socrates discourse is not lost on the rest of the crowd. A fundamental enlightenment begins to descend upon them, as they begin to question themselves about their own firmly held and unquestioned beliefs. It is almost 2500 years ago, and yet the argument and logic premise I am hearing, is as profoundly self-evident, as any I have ever heard expressed. I think about many of the spurious political arguments, I have heard in my own time. We have indeed devolved in thought from this glorious past’s bright moment in the sun.
Socrates voice fades and I hear the scratching of a pen on parchment. I turn to peer into a rather dark, somewhat gloomy, wood lined room. I see a tall man furiously scratching on foolscap. The floor is littered with crumbled up discards from his current effort. I move closer to this later reality and step into the room. I am standing in the Graff house in Philadelphia. It is June 1776. I am in a parlor on the second floor of the house, newly built in 1775 by a popular bricklayer named Jacob Graff, Jr. I am careful not to disturb the piles of papers on the floor. The windows are open, though the shutters are drawn. Through the window, the horse smells from the nearby stable, simmer in yet another hot day, even though the house lies on the outskirts of town.
I glance down at the pen; to my surprise it is not a quill pen but a metal one. Nearby is an engraved pen case with the name of William Cowan, a Richmond watchmaker logoed on it. A decanter of Madeira, and a half empty glass stand on the sideboard. The man writing is Thomas Jefferson. He is working at a curiously designed portable mahogany writing desk. It was built especially for him by Benjamin Randolph, a Philadelphia cabinet maker. Fast by Jefferson, are copies of “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”, his own draft for a Virginia state constitution, and the “Virginia Declaration of Rights” drafted by George Mason.
He references these papers often as he works. Glancing down at the document, I notice he is writing, though quickly, in a firm and even hand. He has just finished the opening paragraph. The following words are flowing onto the paper as if by magic: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —“
The words self-evident, strike me almost as a blow. These thoughts, as profound as they are, were self-evident or common sense, to this group of people that lived over 236 years ago. They didn’t have the advantages of modern public libraries, the internet, television, email and smartphones. I think about all the spurious political arguments from all sides in modern elections. It is disgusting how politics has degenerated.
I hear an incessant chirping sound. My droid bionic is telling me I have to run to a meeting in the future. Jefferson and his room fade down the long corridor of the past. I come back to the present where I am sitting in my study at me desk. I think about what I have seen and learned. In the past, people thought more. They were generally more practical and had more common sense. They didn’t have all the distractions we have today, being constantly bombarded by trivial news that has denuded the populous of thought. Today, a once proud media, has been taken from the public trust and been demeaned into a mockery called “newstainment”.
People of previous eras had to think more on their own. Discussion, argument and logical discourse were the means of reasoning. People had less education and more common sense, because they had to have these qualities or they would not survive. They adapted to challenging circumstances, without massive planning and with minimal resources. They did what they had to do; learning as they went along.
This was never truer, than in the American west. It was a time when the final exams in your life’s education, were given by an unforgiving environment and hostile natives. Failure was usually fatal. Adaptability was something everyone took for granted. I’ll have to travel back there soon to do some additional research. I plan on having a chat with Bat Masterson. I have always found him to be an erudite and personable conversationalist.
So I believe that agile, which I often equate to adaptability, was stronger in our past. It is now something we are rediscovering, because we must, in order to survive the new wave of future shock that is now challenging us. I believe we will survive this. Some will unfortunately fall along the wayside; others will benefit greatly. We will be stronger for having weathered this change; becoming a more thoughtful people once again, because it is required of us. I hope you enjoyed time traveling with me. Let me know what you think and remember to – keep agile!
 I have included some footnotes for those of you who are more comfortable with mundane internet surfing than time travel.
 The Neolithic Period, derived from (neos, “new”) and (lithos, “stone”) is known as the New Stone era. It began about 10,200 BC. It is considered to be the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic began with the rise of farming and the use of both wild and domestic crops along with domesticated animals. It ended when metal tools became widespread during the Copper Age or Bronze Age.
 The Pnyx is a hill in central Athens, the capital of Greece. Beginning as early as 507 BC, the ancient Athenians gathered on the Pnyx to host their popular assemblies. The Pnyx is located less than 1 kilometer west of the Acropolis.
 The agora was originally a gathering place where citizens would gather to hear military orders. At the time I am writing of it also served as a marketplace where merchants kept stalls or shops to sell their goods amid colonnades. The word agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces or public situations, derives from the meaning of agora as a gathering place.
 The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The word acropolis comes from the Greek words (akron, “edge, extremity”) and (polis, “city”).
 Also known as Lycabettus, Lycabettos, Lykabettos or Lykavittos is a Cretaceous limestone hill in Athens, Greece. At 277 meters above sea level, the hill is the highest point in the city that surrounds it. Pine trees cover its base. Tales say it was once the refuge of wolves, which gives it the origin of its name (which means “the one (the hill) that is walked by wolves”).
 An area of Athens, Greece, located to the northwest of the Acropolis, which includes an extensive section both within and outside the ancient city walls, on both sides of the Dipylon Gate. It was the potters’ quarter of the city, from which the English word “ceramic” is derived, and was also the site of an important cemetery and numerous funerary sculptures erected along the road out of the city towards Eleusis.
 In ancient Greek architecture they were covered walkways or porticos, commonly for public usage. Early stoas were open at the entrance with columns, usually of the Doric order, lining the side of the building; they created a safe, enveloping, protective atmosphere. Later examples were built as two stories, with a roof supporting the inner colonnades where shops or sometimes offices were located. They followed Ionic architecture. These buildings were open to the public; merchants could sell their goods, artists could display their artwork, and religious gatherings could take place. Stoas usually surrounded the marketplaces of large cities. The name of the Stoic school of philosophy derives from “stoa”.
 It pays to be prepared when time traveling in hot weather.
 Elenchus is an argument of disproof or refutation. It is the central technique of the Socratic Method. In Plato’s early dialogues, it is the technique Socrates uses to investigate, subjects like the nature or definition justice or virtue.
 The chief magistrate in ancient Greece city states.
 Jefferson often complained to me about the smell when we were dining at the City Tavern which was constructed in 1772. I always rather fancied the roast pheasant.
 See Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Wow, what an excellent blog! I really enjoyed reading this. If only people used more common sense these days.
Jessica – Each of us can aspire to think, discourse and act with common sense and truth; even though we are ridiculed for it. Those cries of the zealot and the criticism of the cynic are lost like fallen leaves in the endless stream of time and yet the wisdom of common sense remains. -Brian
So Agile is retro? Thank you for this is very insightful and almost liberating view of the agile past. Since the global economy will likely get worse only the strong and agile will survive. Being agile = survival.
George – Thanks for your words of appreciation. As Winston Churchill said in his variation of a George Santayana quote, “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” You are right; being agile has now become a matter of survival for businesses. If an enterprise has not made this a focus of their very being they won’t be around in the not too distant future. -Brian
Brain, I’m blown away, what an excellent article. Not only did I like the historical perspective, but the footnotes were a blast. You seem to have a 2nd career waiting to explode. Continued success with your writing. And, keep footnote number 9 handy, you never know when you’ll be up against the same challenges…
I am with you Joe! I was floored by this post when I read it. It drew me in and I had to stop scanning it after the first three paragraphs and really read it. I was so disappointed when it ended; I wish it were a novel. It takes a lot of talent to write something like this what a shame Brian doesn’t devote more time to writing. Most importantly, it really got me to think about where we are going as a people which was obviously one of Brian’s intents. -Sally
Interesting article! Thanks for posting! Go Agile!
You never shared with the group what you like about the post. -Sally
Well written and entertaining! It seems that, perhaps, you have a bit of Walt Disney in you. You tell a story to entertain your audience while including an educational aspect. Your audience learns while having fun. Disney referred to this technique as “Edutainment.” I look forward to more.
Rich – Thanks for your comment. I am flattered by a comparison to Disney, who had an incredible ability to motivate, marshal and manage the talents of highly creative people. -Brian
Brian I am surely in agreement with Rich, you have all the wonderful talent that Disney put into his educational cinema. Please continue with this most pleasing example of teaching the principles of agile.
Excellent article! How can we take past thinking and bring it forward? How can we challenge others to develop more of a group think? Being agile is how we can change the future. Our problem is we do not break the norm and challenge everything.
Thanks Eric for the comment. You are right the most important part about understanding the past is what it can teach us to create a better future; personal courage and reason have been replaced by political pusillanimity and emotional diatribe. It is up to all of us (one voice at a time) to bring back the strong and positive traits from the past that helped build our civilization. -Brian
Brian you should run for office you make more sense than any politician I have ever heard. If that is to much of an effort how about expanding the scope of your blog to cover other areas. I believe it would be fascinating to know your opinion on almost any subject. -Sally
Gracious no Sally! If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve! I thank you for the compliment though and I relaxed slightly enough to cover a few personal recollections in my post, “The Night of the Deadly Micromanager”
Heck Sally, what are you trying to do ruin our best source of information? Avoid politics like the plague Brian! Remain an honest blogger!
Entertaining post, Brian! You raise an excellent question, with the subject of information/stimulation overload today. We are indeed bombarded, and our senses are not designed to take in information in this way, certainly not with an expectation that we can take it in and then make wise decisions. We consume visual data differently than we do auditory data, and reading a text or listening to a recitation of it, registers differently (and more effectively) than in graphic form. And it is certainly helpful to de-couple at times and reflect.
Thanks Brad! Being as well versed in history as you are, your observations carry great weight with me. I really want to explore this subject of agile in history more. I wish this was not something that I was time limited on since I do not get time to post while I am at work.
I agree Brad this is very entertaining and has gotten me to reflect a lot more about how I look at and learn new ideas. I am going to start to practice decoupling from information overload on a regular basis and become more reflective. -Sally
Astonishing that this slice of history is not portrayed on a larger stage. Brian you need to expand this and elevate it to a higher level of awareness. What a gift you have!
hi, i just discovered your blog on google and i must say this blog is great.
We have become a society so reliant on process and others to do our thinking. Even when something needs to be done; we need to find a reference on the way to complete it because of a fear of political reprisal. In simpler times, when we had to think for ourselves, a task or assignment was actually more enjoyable and simulating. We had to think. Wish we could ALL start thinking more. Go Dave! Keep agile!!!!
This is a fabulous post! Very well written! I have never seen an approach like this to explaining what agile is….. and was. This was the most entertaining, informative and thought provoking post article I have ever read. I felt I was actually back in time and a part of history. It really got me to think about applying agile not just to my software development efforts, but everything I do. I am going to pass this link on to others at work. The only problem it was far too short!!! I really hope to see more posts like this. Brian, have you written any novels? If you haven’t you should seriously consider it! This was far better than anything I have read lately. I am waiting for your interview with Bat Masterson! Please post more!
Paul I appreciate your support. I did actually have dinner with Bat Masterson and played poker with Wyatt Earp. Wyatt was rather cranky so I didn’t bet against him much. Unfortunately I really don’t get time to blog during work hours, it is not a supported activity so recounting my time travels has to wait for my off hours. But stay tuned, I’ll get to it.
Brian this is an incredibly entertaining and informative piece of writing. Your detailed descriptions are impressive. When are you going to write the sequel about Bat Masterson?
Celia, as I told Paul just be patient I’ll get to it. I don’t do this as part of my regular work so I have to write on my own time. Please saty tuned I will recount my further adventures in the old west soon. -Brian
I am with you Celia, I really want to hear about the poker game with Bat Masterson. The descriptions of Greece and Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence were so incredibly real, I feel I have almost been there! -Sally
Great post I just ran across it by accident though. I back trailed to your two host sites and man they should be serving up your blog as prime content. Really dude…… your post is the best thing they got going for them. BT
Thanks Baker – I appreciate your support. As you can see I don’t do glitz and the graphics and artwork on my blog were all done by me. To me content is king; particularly original content. -Brian
Brian – what are the host sites Baker is refering to? Is there more of your work than on this blog? Please let me know. -Sally
No keeping agile is the only blog I am running right now. There are two different websites from the company I work for that point to my blog, but I do not create content for them.
Hey Brian I checked out those site aits.org and itmpi.org. Not much content there that was of interest I’m afraid. You need to post more it’s been awhile man.
I would also like to look at more of your work if it is available. I looked at http://www.aits.org and http://www.itmpi.org. This is by far the best content on both sites so we all might as well just stich with agile.caiblogs.com. Wish you posted more Brian. The stuff you do post is great though!!! Thanks man! -Barry
This post is profound… and far too short… It is a commentary on where we are now in our ability to adapt to challenges and how we think and reason in the information age. The writing here is nothing short of incredible. My only complaint is you need to write more and post more often. I feel as if I have actually met Socrates and Jefferson and now I want to meet Bat Masterson. Seriously your message that we need to think more for ourselves and not be influenced by news media talking heads is a vital one. I am forwarding this post to all my friends. It is a MUST READ! -Mike
Thanks Mike. When I write too long some readers attention fades. This post might be an exception however since so many people found it entertaining. I recieved email from many readers asking for more and telling me that they stayed at work to read it or sat in their cars and did not go into their homes until they finished it on a tablet or smartphone. I will return to this as soon as I am able.
Is agile a return to common sense? While I believe I could come up with examples of mankind’s most stupid acts, your point is well taken sir! Common sense kept people alive up until the 20th century. If you did not have this vital mental asset you perished! It was as simple as that. Now we subsidize stupidity and discourage the entrepreneurial survivor instinct that made America great. I am not talking about poor senior citizens on social security or the truly disabled or our war veterans, none of whom we provide for adequately. I am speaking about golden parachutes for failed executives, adopting welfare as a career lifestyle, those in the various industry that plunder social programs with inflated prices that ranks of profiteering and bailouts of atrociously managed businesses that anger many of us. I realize that the latter portion of my comment might be considered off topic and maybe even offensive by some, I believe it is important to voice it. We must as a people return to responsibility and the attitude that we can succeed with the resources at hand and not always look for a hand out when things do not go our way.
Lawrence, I believe in my heart that we are still a strong people awaiting a new rebirth and that this will happen in my lifetime. In fact it is beginning to happen now.
BRIAN – This begs to be written into a book. It is so expressive. What creativity! I could not believe the detail in your descriptions. It was as if you were actually there as a third party observer. Each of these could have easily been made into a chapter itself. This just blew me away. PLease tell us how you came up with the inspiration for this. -Haley
Since I was in the third grade and read the Iliad I learned to time travel and interact with noted personages from the past who taught me many things.
This is an awesome post! As a certified scrum master with years of agile experience behind me, I have never thought of agile in this way before. My eyes are now open and I will look at all things in an agile fashion. THANK YOU BRIAN!
Thanks Stan keep me informed as to your progress.
If agile is a return to commonsense, then you Brian are the most agile person I know of because you have more commonsense than anyone I know of. Your writing is perfectly clear and very well thought out. I enjoyed this trip to ancient Greece and early America with you and hope you write more. I also share your apparent view on the disgusting state of politics in America today.
Change is the essential process of all living things. Politics too will change in time and the current deplorable state will become a part of history only.
This is such an intriguing work I am so anxious to read the next chapter in your time travels.
I need more time to time travel!
Simply amazing Brian! I never thought of agile through the ages as you have here. How did you get all these facts to make it seem so real? Do you really time travel? lol Wendy-G
I agree with you Wendy, this just floored me! It was like being there. It is so dissapointing that Brian didn’t post more stories like this. Stephie
If only more executives of today were this agile! Good history lesson Brian.
I was just sent this by a friend and all I can say Brian is wow! With posts like this why aren’t you advertising more???????
I don’t like to toot my own horn.
My sister sent me this and its an impressive short treatment. How ever did you come up with this Brian? You should be writing movies with this kind of ability to capture a moment like this and make it come alive. Have you done any work for the film industry? I looked and did not find you listed in the writer’s guild. I am retired from the industry, but always looking for new talent and new ideas. The way you made history relevant to a modern issue is wonderful. The comments you are receiving show that you are reaching people and they are reacting very favorably to what you write. Would you consider this kind of opportunity?
No I haven’t worked for the film industry. I did travel a short way back in time to visit Cecil B. DeMille when he was shooting The Ten Commandments. Yul Brynner, who was a cigarette smoking demon, and I kept giggling every time Edward G. Robinson had to deliver his lines. I remember DeMille as a very courageous guy who believed in what he was doing. Even the heart attack he had while climbing a hundred foot ladder during the filming couldn’t keep him down. I am really busy right now, but promise to keep in touch!
This post was nothing short of stupendous! The realism and the accuracy of the history were astonishing. The writing draws you in and captivates you. The message and the morality were compelling. Why aren’t you publishing all over the place Brian? You have the talent, what must be an incredible intellect and a sense of humor. Whatever else you are doing and I guess you are a busy man, you should write more. Good writers are few and far between.
Well I am busy and I do try for realism in my writing of history because I think the lessons of history are vital to planetary survival. The more interesting that you make it the more likely readers will remember. I don’t think of myself as a great intellect, just a man who thinks and hopefully communicates well enough to pass on something I learned to others.
You wow me man this blog rocks!!! I thought Keeping Agile was going to be stuffy, but it plain spoken and direct and has a human side.
Common sense appears to have been more “common” in times past than it is now. The question is how can we bring these lessons from the past into the future. Mr. Lucas has made a most colorful start. I pray that he continues as he has promised and unveils more of agile thinking in history.
This was so enthralling, I am devastated that it was so short and did not continue. Brian please follow on with additional time travels!
Brian what are the chances that you are going to follow through on your promises and post more like this I have been dying to hear how you made out with Bat Masterson for months?
I started to read this and thought, oh just another talking head post. Then I hit the time traveling section and BAM! It nearly knocked me off my seat! This was so cool I could almost see the events happening. It made me think about what I do as an agile C# developer and how I have been limiting my thinking. I hope there is more of this. I would love for this to be a series. Hope there are more posts like this on Keeping Agile.
My God Man! How can you post an article like this that reads like it was written by a master and not write a book???? Whatever else you are doing, you are missing your true calling by not writing full time!!!!
You said it Norman! I would love to see this subject developed into a miniseries for TV as the history of Agile Thinking!
What a crime this was so short and not repeated. When someone has talent like yours Brian they owe it to the world to use it as often as possible! Think about it!
If agile is a return to commonsense you Brian have uncommon-sense. Your blog makes more sense than most of the nonsense I read in the snooty carriers.
Brian when are you going to write a book on this???? You are such a talented writer.
How ever did you come up with this Brian? I can almost believe that you do time travel. It was all so real.I wish I could write like this!
Stephie just sent me this post! My GOD!!! This is brilliant!!! I can believe that you are a time traveler. Please follow up on this I want to find out how you made out with Bat Masterson!!!
This is the most interesting post I have read this year! Any student of history would be intrigued by this. Your descriptions are impressively detailed. This theme would make a fascinating subject for a book entitled “Agile Thinking Throughout History”.
Simply one of the most incredible short reads in my entire experience! All Kudos to you Mr. Lucas! When does the Hollywood script come out?
BRIAN NEXT TIME YOU TIME TRAVEL TAKE ME TOO PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVED THIS!!!
I came across your post in searching for information concerning the Greek philosophical movement. Though short, your descriptions of Greece at the time of Socrates are quite vivid and even emotionally enthralling. You obviously have a considerable amount of writing talent and a remarkable felicity for telling a story. I am surprised that you have not written more in this blog. I encourage you to do so even though I am not interested in the technical subject of agile computer software development.
I’d like to hear more about your time traveling experiences!
I just love your blog Brian! You are such an entertaining writer! It is helping me expand my knowledge as a project manager. I have taken many of your ideas to our company’s management and they are supporting my initiative! Thanks!
OMG Brian! This was so interesting! I am so totally devastated you did not write more of this. I felt like I was right there with you in your time travels. You have to write a novel! It will save me from reading 50 Shades of XXXX (deleted by administrator) again! lol Seriously, you are the best! :G
Hey Brian! I just wanted you to know that I am still a loyal reader, but I wish you would post more. Its dull without your wisdom and humor to read!
Brian oh mystic time traveler and magnificent scribe, when are you going to post the other time traveling experiences you promised? I have been waiting forever! Don’t keep me in suspense! Z
Yes for sure!!!!
This was an unusual post! It was also terrifically entertaining. It seems like this blog is no longer active, but its worth a shot to comment and see if the author will respond. I’d love to read more like these. I was so real, I could feel if I was actually there.