The Agile Breakfast: 
What it Means to be Agile

People naturally use the Agile Method for everyday events like breakfast, but for more complex situations we often set big objectives and then cross our fingers that they will add up to achieving our goals.

So what does an Agile plan for breakfast look like, and how can we translate an Agile breakfast plan into an organizational plan?

breakfastEveryone has a plan for breakfast, even if it’s to not have breakfast. The plan is the minimum required to ensure that you fuel your body so you can meet your other morning commitments.

Let’s break down the plan for breakfast to show how Agile we can be.

When you wake up you know that your goal is an adequate breakfast to nourish your body for the tasks ahead. In Agile Method lingo this is the LEAN CANVAS, (or the minimum effort required to achieve your goal.)

A WORK ITERATION is a package of tasks that moves you towards your goal. When you are using the Agile Method, no other tasks can intrude until these tasks are completed — or until failure to complete gives you the signal that changes are required to achieve your goal.

Which in this case is breakfast.

Your first package of tasks, or 1ST ITERATION, might include showering, brushing your teeth, dressing to suit the day, walking the dog, and checking to see if you have money for breakfast (because you have a breakfast meeting).

The outcomes of the 1st Iteration tasks inform your 2nd Iteration.

Everything went well except you don’t have enough cash for breakfast.

walletThe information from your 1st Iteration tells you how you need to adjust the plan — stop at the bank and call ahead to your meeting to say you’ll be a bit late. You don’t let thoughts of your afternoon meeting or need to get groceries after work get in the way; those tasks go into the BACKLOG because they aren’t affected by the breakfast meeting — at least not yet.

The 2nd Iteration tasks are to travel to the breakfast meeting location, order breakfast, and find your colleagues. It needs a small revision to accommodate the need to get some cash. That’s it. But then, ordering breakfast doesn’t go as planned, and there is a delay in preparing your order. This failed attempt at ordering breakfast on time signals another possible change to the plan.

The 3rd Iteration needs to accommodate the delay in your order and still get you to your meeting. You might find your table and ask your colleagues if they can wait for you while you go back for your order. They are happy to oblige, your food finally arrives, and you sit down at the meeting table to enjoy your breakfast.

Like your mother might have told you, “It’ll all work out in the end.”

But, what you didn’t notice is how AGILE you were in getting your breakfast and attending the meeting, which is WHY “everything works out in the end.”

Because you were AGILE:

• You took control of what you could and determined you could keep your breakfast and meeting commitments.

• Your iteration tasks warned you of events beyond your control that might require plan changes (eg. going to the bank for cash might leave no margin for a traffic jam).

• You were accountable for what you could control and were responsive to the needs of others if forces beyond your control pushed you off your Lean Canvas plan.

If the everyday goal of a breakfast meeting can require so many adjustments, just think of all the events that can impact your organization’s plans and objectives!

Wouldn’t you like to be as Agile at work as you are at breakfast?