First things first, second things never

The title says it all. Everyone is trying to show they are good at Getting Things Done. People invented the waterfall system of project management because it was a hell of a lot better than no system at all. What agile does is cope with a piece of software that is never done, but always improving.

It works by forcing the users to decide what things are first and should be done before anything else. It not only puts first things first; it allows the things that are first this month to be different to the things that are first next month. Of course it isn’t easy,  it requires software developers to give up the pretence that they run the software projects. After all, the person who truly runs the project is the one that gets to decide if it was a success, not the one doing the work; but you can pretend otherwise – for a while – when you are the “project manager”; it sounds like you are in charge. It also requires developers to learn how to make software that is flexible and changeable and testable; but if they can’t do that then the whole future is buggered anyway because whether you are doing agile or not, your requirements will change.

The title is a quote from the 1970’s household productivity classic SuperWoman,  by Shirley Conran. She also said “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom”; but that seemed slightly less relevant.

C.S. Lewis, sly Christian propagandist that he was *, put it slightly less clearly, but more elegantly:

You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.

You can’t always get people to believe that they can’t have everything, but at least with agile they get to have something now and something else later, rather than having to wait 8 months to find that the whole thing is missing the point as the new business is now over there <points to the other side of the world/>.

* I must say that the whole Christian metaphor of The Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe didn’t pass me by when I read the book, but it didn’t occur to me to be offended; after all, it was only a story and the whole bible thing, well that was just another story.


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