Interviews with a Natural Agilist

By Brian Lucas

“Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.” – Marcus Aurelius

“When we see a natural style, we are astonished and charmed; for we expected to see an author, and we find a person.” – Blaise Pascal

So many blogs feature articles from noted personalities or conversations with one of the founding members of the Agile Manifesto – and that’s great. However[1], I would like to celebrate something different here.  It is a misconception that agile is a new discovery that happened back in February of 2001, when 17 software developers met in Utah to discuss lightweight development methods.

Agile has in fact been a way-of-life for many people; since Edison was in Menlo Park or Hannibal crossed the Alps.  Indeed long before that, probably reaching back to the dim memories of pre-recorded history and even prehistoric times, agile was a way of thinking for some people.  This does not diminish the great work done by visionaries like Dr. Jeff Sutherland or Ken Schwaber.  It simply means they did not discover; they rediscovered or actually articulated[2] the concept to the populous.

People have been applying agile concepts naturally without any formalization of education or training, because that just happens to be the way they think.  Oftentimes, I have found this to be a condition of how their minds worked as far back as they can remember[3].   These are the people I want to celebrate in this post.  They have been going about their lives and businesses, without fanfare, making good things happen by adapting to changing circumstances.  In doing so they not only created opportunity for others, but advanced the condition of man in ways that are difficult to measure, since they altered and continue to affect the lives and thought processes of others.

Those of you struggling with agile can find inspiration to succeed in their stories.  A few others who espouse hubris along with their agile scrum master certification will perhaps find some humility knowing that others achieved on their own what was in effect bottled, bonded and spoon fed to them.  Whatever your motives, I hope you enjoy the series and if you just happen to be a natural agilist and have a story to tell; drop me a line.

A Natural Agilist finds a home with Main Line Health’s “healthy” agile organization

A Natural Agilist finds a cure for the Pareto Principle at a hospital

A Natural Agilist makes mangia a marvelous experience

A Natural Agilist Returns to his Roots

A Natural Agilist Practices What She Preaches

A Natural Agilist Proves the Value of Theater

[1] I’ll bet you thought I was going to say “but”.

[2] Which indeed was a tremendous contribution and not to be made light of (oh no I almost ended that sentence on a preposition. What would my 4th grade English teacher Sister Mary Bernadette say).

[3] Maybe even to birth; what a fascinating neurological study this would make.

About Brian Lucas

In his life, Brian Lucas has been a coach, farm worker, forester, health care advocate, life guard, general contractor, mechanic, mixologist, musician/singer (in a rock group), salesman and teacher. Brian has worked as a project manager, technical marketer, methodologist, manager, software architect, systems designer, data modeler, business analyst, systems programmer, software developer and creative writer. These efforts include over a hundred hi-tech initiatives in almost every business and industrial sector as well as government and military projects. Among them, he designed and developed a quality assurance system for the first transatlantic fiber optic communications network, a manufacturing system for a large computer manufacture’s seven manufacturing centers, a data mining system for steel production, an instrumentation system for cable systems, defined requirements for government’s information systems and designed and developed human performance management systems. Brian has educated and mentored many over the years, designing programs to discover and develop talent. He has also lectured extensively to a variety of audiences. Brian is currently devoting as much time as possible to the innovation of business agility and human capital management along with the next generation of agile software development. As an amateur theoretical physicist he is working on joining general relativity and quantum mechanics through a multidimensional time corollary on string theory and negating the uncertainty principle with Louis de Broglie’s wave/particle hypothesis. He is also an avid blue-water sailor and wilderness backpacker. He enjoys billiards, boxing, chess, cooking, famous battle reenactments and war gaming, fencing, flying, gardening, horseback riding, martial arts (particularly Ninjutsu), philosophy and psychology, playing musical instruments (7 so far), poker, rapid-fire target shooting, reading (he tries to read a new book every night), painting with oils, scuba diving, skiing and recently writing novels.
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47 Responses to Interviews with a Natural Agilist

  1. Dave says:

    Love this interview concept!!! It is very informative and different. Hope you post more interviews on a regular basis. They would make a great podcast series!

    • Brian says:

      Dave – I am working on converting some of the existing interviews to podcasts. Thanks for being a reader. -Brian

    • Riiriend says:

      There are two very interesting concepts in your post. Seeing agile thinking as a system rather than a technique invented by geeks, and borrowing from other disciplines. I myself have learnt the solution to a lot of BA issues from Medical practitioners, civil engineers and professional negotiators from FBI to name a few. The fact that we as software community are not living in a vacuum cube is a realization which we need to achieve to be able to build our community over the shoulder of other thinkers rather than reinventing everything naively. Thanks for the great inspiration. Very well timed. I am reading a great book named thinking in systems by Donella H. Meadows. I found the concepts noted in the book as timeless.

  2. MikeH says:

    I started reading the posts about agile organization structures, but this title caught my attention. It sounds like a novel idea. I’ll have to read the interviews tomorrow. Question are they available in audio form so they can be listened to while commuting? Mike

  3. Jack says:

    Brian – I finally read this post which I believe is the first in your interviews series. I am glad you wrote it and sorry I did not read it first. It confirms everything I thought. I sincerely thank you for writing this series. My only disappointment is that there is not more. I find your posts so readable I am enjoying them a great deal. This series is my favorite though and I wish you would post a new interview each week. Thanks again!! – Jack

    • Brian says:

      Jack – You are rapidly becoming my number one reader and commenter. Thank you so much for your both your readership and especially your comments. Its great to hear from someone who actually became an agile convert through my Keeping Agile blog. Please keep making your intelligent observations and comments! -Brian

    • Sally says:

      Jack lets unite and start a campaign to get Brian to post more of these interviews. What do you think? After all it is the campaign season! lol -Sally

  4. Sally says:

    Brian – Please tell me that you have not ended this series! It was a great idea and very informative by giving real life examples of people who think and act in an agile fashion. To be honest some of the other blogs I have read that are on the sites that link to your blog were filled with the same hype and rehashments that pervades too many blogs. Yours is so different! I hope you continue! -Sally

    • Brian says:

      Sally – Your loyal readership is quilting me into working longer hours to continue to post! (Just kidding) It is a fact that I only am allocated 2 hours a week to blog and that is insufficient time to write the kind of curated articles I wish to write. As you said, so many bloggers post materials that look like they dictated it while driving through heavy traffic on their way into work or simple restate what they found in another post. That is not something I am willing to do. I have much more respect for my readership than to treat them in such a cavalier fashion. Thank you for being such a loyal reader. If I do not have time to post feel free to email me with any questions you might have! Thank you for being a such an intelligent and loyal reader! -Brian

  5. Jack says:

    Brian – Where are the other interviews in this series that you promised? We are all waiting breathlessly!!!! In all seriousness, I believe that your interview series is very important. It along with your “A Tale of Two Companies” posts are valuable primers in teaching people how to think agile they have helped me become more of an agile thinker. Please continue to post these. -Jack

    • Brian says:

      Ah Jack I have to apologize to you and my other readers. I would like to spend more time, but I only get 2 hours a week to do this. To be frank, I have been honored by so many comments that it takes almost that time to read and answer them all. In addition, I receive emails from readers that are great sources of information, wonderful dialogs and sometimes appeals for help. These take an additional 3 to 5 hours a week to answer. In actuality I have been doing all this on my own time for the last month or so, which is why I have not been posting as much. But please keep the faith! Loyal readers such as yourself are a powerful and inspiring force and I will not let you down. -Brian

    • Brian Lucas says:

      Jack the interview with John Vernotica posted a short while ago and another one will go out soon and yet another is in the mix.

  6. Connie says:

    This is a super idea! I have not seen this approach taken before – talking to regular people who are actually doing something agile without all the theory and sometimes silly terminology. This is very educational. Hope you do a lot more of these.

    • Brian Lucas says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting Connie. These interviews have been so enjoyable I would like to continue doing them.

  7. Fran C. Zabrinski says:

    Brian let me add my voice to the others here. Please continue this series. It is informative and important.

  8. Haley says:

    Brian I should have read this post first! It explains perfectly why you started the interviews series. Great work keep it up! I am going to follow your blog.

    • Brian says:

      Thanks Haley! It was a moment of inspiration that was driven by a realization that I have been blessed by knowing a number of people that perhaps lack fame or accreditation and yet are the backbone of our world and our society.

  9. Maryann says:

    I missed that this was the introduction to the interview with Wayne. I am sorry that I didn’t read this one first. It gives the interviews even more meaning. I really respect you Brian for coming up with this idea and how well you have done each interview. It shows a lot of care and thought and consideration for the interviewees and us the readers. I agree with my friend Bonnie. She said in her comment on Wayne’s interview that it would be cool to have some background for the interview. I’ll take it one step farther and say it would be interesting to hear an account of each interview from those you interviewed. You are too much of a mystery man. Informed reader want to know! lol

    • Brian says:

      Maryann I will let the interviewees cover the background for their interviews in posts of their own here if they are willing to do so. As far as I am concerned the mystery will remain to intrigue your enquiring mind! Chortle, Chortle!

  10. Jackie says:

    Great idea and premise about interviewing the common person. Maybe I should say the not so common person since I read these interviews. They both sound like they are very intelligent and are fantastic managers. How did you find them? Both Dave and Wayne sound like they could write their own blogs. You are one heck of an interviewer Brian. Having interviewed people myself, I know how hard it is to conduct a good interview. These are darn near perfect! You should do live web chats. I bet it would go over big since you seem to know so much and have an impressive command of the language. Keep up the good work!!!

    • Brian says:

      Thank you Jackie I appreciate your appraisal of my interviewing skills especially since you have done this yourself. I agree no one I have interviewed so far is common though they are all unassuming in the finest sense of that word. A number of people have asked me to do live web chats so I will have to consider it more seriously.

  11. Bonnie says:

    I like the way you set up this series Brian. This introduction answers some of the questions I had about Wayne’s interview. I hope Wayne can respond to some of my questions. Thanks for your blog Brian. It is terrific!

  12. Li says:

    I must take the time to express my appreciation for this series of interviews that you have shared with us. It has provided me as a CEO and my company with a new understanding on the modern approach to business and how to be a successful in the challenge of business today. Hard work and controlling costs is not enough we must all work more intelligently. This series and your entire blog is becoming a path of enlightenment for businesses that want to survive the change happening today. You have done a great service to all of us in the business world by sharing your knowledge and teaching us as a master would. Please continue your efforts; I am sure they are being appreciated by many who do not write.
    Humbly yours
    W. Li

    • Brian says:

      Dear Mr. Li – It is I that is humbled by your appreciation. You are correct controlling costs today is not enough by any stretch of the imagination. A successful business must not only engage all its employees in the vision and operations, but tap into all their potential and learn from them as well. Far too many in management are dismissive of the workforce as a knowledge and innovation source. That is deadly to a company’s future. Your recognition of the importance of change is a tribute to your courage and open mindedness. Those are two very important traits of a leader!

  13. M.Hunt says:

    Brian this is the second post that I have read of yours. You really have a handle on how to communicate and what to communicate. This approach of not interviewing theorists is simply ingenious. The wide spectrum of your interview subjects is nice too. I am impressed at how you seem to be able to relate well to so many different types of people. -Mike

  14. Herbert Davies says:

    Great treatment of agile thinking across a variety of professions and activities. Interviewing real life people using real life examples of being agile is the best way to learn this type of thought process in my opinion.

  15. Johann says:

    This is an excellent series of interviews on the subject of being agile. I recommend that everyone read them all, whatever your profession or position, you will learn something from each of them.

  16. WIlliam Guilley says:

    George Santos’s interview is a fine addition to this most excellent series. Please continue this informative and positive series.

  17. Vic Arnold says:

    Very informative series of interviews Brian. I learned something from each one. I hope that you continue these. I admire how your blog contains so many different elements like this series, and your winner of the month contest and your tale of two companies. I saw that you intend to do more of those. Any idea when we will see them?

  18. Perry says:

    More interviews are just more of a good thing. Keep them coming Brian.

  19. Sidney Auerback says:

    This interview series just keeps getting better and better with each interview. I hope they never end.

  20. Thomas DeBellis says:

    I also agree this is a great series. The interviews are substantive and a pleasure to read. I do wish you had podcast versions as well that I could listen to while driving.

  21. Antoine says:

    Best interview series I ever read! Great premise on interviewing doers and not just preachers! Each is unique and very rich in perception and practical advice. I hope you continue this thread!

  22. Deirdre Lamour says:

    Oh yeah this is getting good now! Let’s hear from Elaine she’s obviously someone who knows Brian vveerryy wweell.

  23. Gabrielle Sundlof says:

    What a terrific series of interviews. Common people with unfortunately uncommon skills, shows us just what can be done if you are motivated!

  24. Billy says:

    a superb series Brian. Thank you for posting!

  25. Morton says:

    One of the best series of interviews I have ever read! Cohesive and packed full of real life examples of successful behavior.

  26. Hilly "Junebug" Williams says:

    Oh Brian! I would love to interview you for my term project! Can I please call you?

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