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Agile Lessons from Antarctica

By Julie Wyman

Julie spent January 2018 in Antarctica hanging out with penguins, whales, and seals. It was about as different from her day-to-day work as an Agile Coach as can be. And yet, on her long flight home, she couldn’t help but reflect on how well her trip aligned with one specific value of the Agile Manifesto: “Responding to change over following a plan.”

It’s a common misconception that there’s no need to plan in Agile. And while this isn’t the case, specific approaches to planning do change—from big upfront design to a “just enough” approach. The act of planning still holds great value when it occurs at the right level, but in Agile we accept that many things will change and we’ll need to remain flexible to respond to them. If we’ve planned well, we’ll go into those changes with a clear sense of our goal and how to still achieve it under the new circumstances.

Nowhere is this truer than in Antarctica. Julie shares six specific takeaways about change and planning that she brought back from my trip. She explains how the trip to Antarctica drove home why we need both planning AND, even more importantly, the ability to respond to change and how these real-life, non-software examples of responding to change can serve as great reminders to bring back to more typical work environments, including software development. And after being stuck in Antarctica six days longer than planned, Julie shares why her biggest takeaway of them all was increased empathy for team members struggling with dynamic situations!


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