Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever

Lean, agile living for the running mother of Peter

2008-10-02

My first agile project, not that I knew that it was a project or that it was agile

Looking back at my career, I find that my first agile project started back in the year 2000. But I never saw it as a development project. Nor did I see it as agile. But looking back, it had lots of agile feeling, even if it was somewhat extreme.

It started when I was working as a computer trainer and project manager at a computer training company here in Sweden. One of our sales guys came and asked me if I knew a program which was called FileMaker. Being born and bred from the Apple world, of course I had. Well, he had this course that needed to be held on using FileMaker. I hate those two day courses in database programs - either they are to superficial so that the advanced users don't get their answers, and the beginners never get enough to be able to create their own useful database. But that is another story. A consultant never says no, so I went to a big hospital here in Stockholm and met this science nurse, who was conducting a study and who needed this database. She had a database, but she needed to change it, so I was going to teach her.

I studied the system while we were talking and I soon realised that the model used didn't fit her needs, she wouldn't be able to answer simple questions as a patient's latest sample result on a specific test. That is kind of crucial.

We had to make radical changes and so my first agile project was on the road. But we didn't call it a project, we called it an education. I rebuilt the foundation of the system back at work but we decided to meet once a month to teach her a little bit more on how she was going to be able to change the system. At the same time I showed her what I've been doing during the previous month. You could call it a demo. During the demo we discussed which changes I was going to do until the next time we met and what she would be doing. You could say we had a sprint planning meeting.

We always worked from the use cases, or in this case: the study that was being carried out. She explained which statistics she wanted and I asked some questions back about special cases.

I was very lucky having this as my first agile project. First: she was an excellent partner (if you have a good product owner, you see that person as a partner or team member). Second: I didn't see this as something as hard as agile software development. I simply worked they way I found worked for us. And finally, I learned a lot and had so much fun. And that is not to be forgotten either.

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