Repairman Jack in Agile

Okay, so I have been an avid reader of F. Paul Wilson’s “Repairman Jack” series ( finding out about it through a book club my sales executive friend, Greg Kaufman, introduced to me back in 2002.  Aside from the fact that I’ve befriended a sales person is like cats living with dogs, the book really struck me with the protagonist of the story, “Jack” was able to keep his identity unknown and blended in as an average Joe, never looking or acting like a true rock star James Bond styled hero.

Some basic things I’ve learned about Agile that many people, especially new to the practices seem to fail to understand.  First is why Agile works and second a general guidebook on how Agile should be implemented.  In Repairman Jack, Jack doesn’t fix your broken water pipe or furnace, but instead “fixes” problems in people’s lives whether it be spousal abuse or missing children.  He has his own code of honor and is flexible to situations to adapt to changes that happen in life.  He will get money up front to start, but doesn’t get paid the rest until his work is done.  There is a parallel in Agile delivery too.

Agile’s success arrives from more frequent inspection and adaption so that you know when a product is being built wrong early and change it then avoiding the tremendous costs of discovering later.  The approaches in Agile also work under the principle of the “stop starting, start finishing” mentality.  Agile will allow to have 5%, 9%, 12%, etc. of the product to be done, thereby truly having deliverable components.  They may change over time, but they are functional.  Achieving a shippable product, often called the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), is a top driving goal of Agile and should be for any product delivery too.

For companies that have mastered continuous delivery like Amazon or Google, this isn’t news.  However, what works for Amazon or Google won’t necessarily work for your business or your project.  In my next blog, I’ll cover what approaches have shown to work and not work from my experiences over 12 years practicing Agile delivery.


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