“I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight.”

People have different responses when they hear this. Some people get a little excited by the sense of adventure for my road trip, while others worry.

I’m not worried, though.

I have a framework to help me get where I want to go, even if I don’t know exactly where it is. I have stuff for sleeping. I have stuff for eating. My car has new tires on it, a recent oil change, and newly-tinted windows for privacy and sun-protection. I have electronics backups. I’m even traveling with a small pharmacy. I will be okay.

It’s kind of like software.

If my road trip were a software project:

I’ve chosen my language. I have a folder structure in place. I have code in source control. I am able to run basic tests. And I have a general idea what kind of application I want to build. I know where I want to go; but I don’t know how exactly I’m going to get there.

And this isn’t bad. For software, it’s actually really good.

Conversely, what if I were to plan my trip and end up somewhere I don’t want to be? What if things went unexpectedly and I couldn’t make my destination on time? What if there were events out of my control? What if what seemed like a good idea no longer holds interest or I learn of something else that I want to do instead? By not having a solid plan but by having a framework by which to get to my destination, none of that matters.

I can adjust and adapt. I can always change directions. I’m also tweaking my process as I learn what works and what doesn’t.

By contrast, when I did try to plan a trip and I had hotels booked, I ended up having to change it anyway because the airline decided to cancel my flight. So I spent half a day calling the hotels and the airline, and coming up with a whole new plan.

If you’ve been developing software for a while, particularly in an agile fashion, you’ve probably grown comfortable with not having a roadmap laid out — particularly not one with set timelines or a high degree of specificity, not to mention a plan for how you’re going to build it.

However, chances are good you haven’t applied that same flexibility to your life.

So consider: what if you signed up for a trip and didn’t know where you were going to sleep? What if you had others depending on you for where they were going to sleep, too?

Let that sink in for a second. The clock is ticking. Night will arrive whether you want it to or not; and you don’t have a place secured to sleep for the night.

Maybe that uneasy feeling is what your stakeholders are feeling when they hear, “I don’t know,” in response to questions about when, what, or how they’re going to get what they’re asking for.

Perhaps, with this analogy, we can all have a little more empathy for those who haven’t yet experienced the benefits of developing with agility.

It takes time to learn that everything will be okay.

Eve Ragins

Person An icon of a human figure Status
Sleeper Agent
Hash An icon of a hash sign Code Name
Agent 00138
Location An icon of a map marker Location
Semi-Nomadic; Olympia, WA