Re: Agile Practices [was The Red Mercedes]
From: Dane Laverty (
Date: Sun, 6 Nov 2011 11:17:48 -0800 (PST)
Let me respond first to your question about Agile (I'll come back to the
rest in a separate email). Here's the "Agile Software Developement
Manifesto". Like any declaration, it's more about ideals than practices,
but I think it's a useful starting point:

*Manifesto for Agile Software Development*

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

*Individuals and interactions* over processes and tools
*Working software* over comprehensive documentation
*Customer collaboration* over contract negotiation
*Responding to change* over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Although I work as a software developer, I've found that the principles
behind Agile are useful beyond just programming and can often be applied
successfully in other disciplines. At its core, Agile is designed to answer
the questions, "What are the most pressing needs?" and, "What can we work
on today that will provide value tomorrow?"

Traditional software development says, "We'll spend 18 months building this
super-awesome program that provides the dozens of features you requested,
in conformance with the contract specifications."

Agile software development says, "Rather than blocking out 18 months to
give you what you think you want, let's spend 1 month building a very
simple prototype that provides just a single one of your many requested
features. You can test drive that and let us know if we're going in the
direction you want. Then we'll spend another month to add another feature.
This way we don't end up 18 months later giving you something that wasn't
what you really envisioned at all."

The idea is that it's better to provide frequent releases, each
demonstrating minor additions in value in order to achieve invested
customer collaboration and keep the project in line with customer

As I'm looking around at websites, I'm surprised to find that there's not
really a single good website I can point you to that explains how Agile
turns the above principles into practices. I believe that it's largely
because Agile is relatively new (while many of the practices are decades
old, the term Agile is circa 2001) and therefore many different approaches
are currently being tried and promoted. The two practices that I've seen
used most often and most successfully are Scrum and Extreme Programming
(again, don't let the word "programming" scare you off -- the principles
apply interdisciplinarily):


Extreme Programming:


On Sun, Nov 6, 2011 at 8:42 AM, Sharon Villines
<sharon [at]>wrote:

> On 5 Nov 2011, at 12:59 PM, Dane Laverty wrote:
> > My less selfish reason is that I want to provide a "reset button" for
> people. I want a community for people who are stuck without skills,
> education, or work experience, a place that provides people with the space,
> contacts, and resources [snip] So I guess what I'm envisioning isn't so
> much a long-term cohousing community as it is a sort of staging area, a
> boarding school for life. I would be a place where people would come for a
> few years, get set up, and then head out again.
> I wished for this for my son who didn't go to college. He needed the place
> to develop independence and not have to live by all the rules of the home
> designed for younger children. A dorm and house parents for working 18-21
> year olds.
> If such a place were built on a cohousing model, run and managed by the
> residents, it might not be too expensive to live in. Many retreats designed
> allow people to rethink are really designed for short expensive vacations.
> A rental model would also allow choosing residents more carefully. If the
> community is providing services, they can't take on people who don't have
> the  industriousness to rebuild. It wouldn't be able to help people with
> mental illness or addictions and thus would have to screen carefully.
> Treatment facilities require much more public or private support than a
> rethinking and retooling community could provide.
> There are people around the country building "single room occupancy"
> housing that has shared kitchens and other facilities. Searching on "single
> room occupancy" might bring them up. Some are designed like "half-way"
> houses with some treatment support and supervision. In Manhattan, this
> housing model developed out of hotel living and people do live in both for
> their lifetimes.
> There would be pressure from government agencies to take people that the
> community might not be able to help. The lure is steady, guaranteed money,
> but it can make the community dependent on financial support from sources
> that send residents who are not able to contribute to the community — and
> even will prey on it. A healthy amount of skepticism is wise.
> Twin Oaks allowed themselves to become dependent on one customer — a large
> retail outlet. When that outlet stopped ordering their hammocks, they were
> essentially out of business. After that they diversified and did more of
> their own marketing.
> > I'm not sure that this addresses any of your points about the assumed
> > absence of conflict. My hope is that, since this community would function
> > more like a program than a neighborhood, and due to the short-term nature
> > of the stay for most of the residents, there would be less friction.
> Conflict develops very fast — it doesn't have to be huge to cause daily
> irritations — and move-in is probably the most difficult time (or after the
> new has worn off). If people are betwixt and between, they are probably
> also unhappy and irritable. And even embarrassed to find themselves in
> "such a place." It takes time to overcome unreasonable expectations and
> build a reputation as cool.
> One reason people might find themselves in need of such a facility is that
> they can't handle conflict well. Conflict is daily if you are dealing with
> another person — you can't always be in perfect alignment, even with
> yourself. You have to know how to work it out. (I'm not suggesting that I
> know.)
> > I think you've touched on the key point with your suggested regular 5 -
> 15
> > minute conflict resolution meeting. In the computer programming world,
> the
> > popular methodology *du jour* is called "Agile programming". It consists
> of
> > several team management practices, one of which being the "daily stand-up
> > meeting".
> I think this sounds like a very useful practice for raising conflicts.
> Often they just need to be raised — I am routinely surprised and surprise
> others with things that are irritating.
> Can you recommend a website that summarizes these practices? I've heard of
> some of them because Agile people are very interested in systems thinking
> and thus gravitate toward dynamic governance.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines, Washington DC
> "We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities." Walt Kelly
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