Agile is like small unit leadership.

I saw everyone was writing about Agile, so I figured I was on the wrong week. So here is my post for week 9.

I read the “Agile Manifesto,” and then watched the video just now. Needless to say, having missed Tuesday’s class, I was lost. I had no idea what Agile was, and why I was watching the video of this little bald head talking to me. A little Google/Wiki search, and I was on track.

So I think I understand why these developers had the idea to create the manifesto and a non-profit learning academy. I’m sure what they said about the “waterfall” technique was absolutely true. Unlike some other businesses, the business of computing and the Internet came from big government. I’m sure that means they both transferred over to big business, who in turn pushed out software in giant waves that crashed over and soaked their customer base. After all, that’s how big business works. Even Apple is like that … “Here comes the new iWhatever! You’re all going to love it and learn to use it.” They don’t function in small teams like ideas that are built from the ground up function … or at least how the good ones function.

We have a military concept that is very similar. Something designed to save us from big military ideas. It’s called “small unit leadership,” or “distributed operations.” The idea is phenomenal, and basically involves all decision-making authority being pushed to the lowest level of leadership. In many cases, that ends up being a 19-year-old kid. That means he is deciding when to drop bombs, when to attack a building, and when to call in for a medical evacuation. That may sound crazy, but it works. Decisions are made faster than the enemy can make them, because that 19-year-old’s equivalent on the battlefield has no authority whatsoever.

From what I understand, the Agile method is a lot like that. Low-level developer teams interact directly with the customer. They make plans and carry them out based on what the customer gives them. They also implement and follow guidelines that ensure success. If the customer tries to circumvent that process, developers have the authority to guide those customers back, without fear of reprisal from higher.

It sounds like a good method to me. I thought the manifesto was a little much, but the idea of small unit leadership and ideas makes me feel right at home.

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