Monday, March 16, 2015

You can learn a lot about agile from Heraclitus.

You can learn a lot from this guy.
It is funny how culture and philosophy ebb and flow over the years.  Pagan tradition are making a comeback in certain parts of Europe, Australia and the United States.  Machiavelli continues to influence art and politics.  I even see the influence of pre-Socratic philosophy in the Agile Manifesto.  This week I want to talk about a dead white guy and how he should be an influence on the agile community.

Heraclitus was born 500 years before Christ.  He is one of those thinkers college freshmen are introduced to in their introductory philosophy classes and they quickly forget him.  Philosophy is always dry but you would be surprised how much it shapes our actions and thinking. Heraclitus’ greatest observation was his statement, “The only constant in this world is change.”  This makes Heraclitus one of the intellectual forefathers of the agile movement.

I say this because Heraclitus and his notions about change match up pretty well with the Agile Manifesto which says we should “Respond to change over following a plan.”  The idea that everything is in flux an important concept that anyone in the software business can understand.  The marketplace and software is changing each day; today’s Yo can be tomorrows MySpace.  Many of the most disruptive software offerings were developed and pushed to production in a manner of days.  Over the course of weeks, these offering and items were changed to meet the demands of the market and before you know it they became dominant market leaders.

Heraclitus would also say, “You could not step twice into the same river.”  This has additional relevance to the agile community because what may have worked in past may not work now because the circumstances will have changed.  Smart Scrum Masters will understand this to be a common sense approach.  Sadly, I have seen consulting companies and business leaders apply a one size fits all approach to projects and the only thing it has done is create slow motion project failures.

So bone up on your Heraclitus and get ready to use a dash of his wit and wisdom in your next presentation.

Until next time.