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Reflections from Agile 2019: The Perfect Agile Imperfectionist

Published By Brook Appelbaum


Another Agile show is in the books. Agile 2019 wrapped last week, and it was nothing short of awesome! The conference was full of great speakers, conversations, and partners as well as great competitors and old friends. Each day brought a new set of Agile practitioners and enthusiasts to our booth, each with their own special “snowflake” problem or problems. Every staff member was primed and ready to address the myriad of issues that ranged from the simple understanding of how to use our robust Enterprise Kanban solution Planview AgilePlace for Scrum, to some of the more complex problems of how to embrace a traditional PMO in an Agile world, or how to contemplate the new world of Lean Portfolio Management and iterative funding.

And while the conversations, demos, and interest were dynamic and engaging, there was one thing we didn’t discuss in the booth. And that was how society as a whole is geared against the Agilist.

Building High-Performing Agile Teams and Trains eBook

It wasn’t until Wednesday morning, when Australian keynote speaker Lynn Cazaly took the stage, that I began to ponder a very important but critical Agile conversation. In her heavy Aussie accent, she kicked the keynote off with the threat of death by crocodile (in a very humorous way) and then she dropped a new term on the audience. She called it “ish”.

Ish? If you are wondering if this is a real word, I asked the same question! But think about it. When are you coming home for dinner? 6pm-ish? Are you hungry? “ish”. Is that shirt clean? “Clean-ish”. And according to her, this word has now become part of the Urban Dictionary and obviously, my vocabulary. She’s even written a book about it. One guess at the title? Anyone? “Ish” by Lynn Cazaly.

In her book, she talks about how society has increasingly become more and more focused on being perfect. We work longer hours, we toil, we pick, we obsess, we tweak, until we are exhausted and disenchanted. We spend an exorbitant amount of time withholding imperfect projects. We don’t launch our work because society has ingrained in many of us that everything must be the absolute best.

Now think about that as an Agile practitioner. Our entire belief system is at odds with this idea of perfectionism in the workplace. As Agile disciples, the entire point of all of the things we do is to create an imperfect “MVP”, to iterate, to test, to learn, and most importantly, to grow.

Without embracing the imperfection of what we stand for, we cannot achieve a higher purpose or higher goal for ourselves, our organizations, or most importantly, our customers.

We have to embrace the “Ish” … It is great-ish? Good enough-ish? Are you ready-ish for this new idea in your workplace?

My advice to you, my Agile friends, is to embrace imperfection, embrace the “ish”. Kick societal pressures in the teeth with a good dose of Agile amazement. But most importantly, use your ideas that are “good enough” to continuously improve and learn because you have to remember that your “ish” is someone else’s awesome.

In the spirit of continuous learning and improvement, take some time to read through the “Building High Performing Agile Teams and Release Trains” eBook to either familiarize or re-familiarize yourself with how to help your organization build high-functioning teams and how to use your Agile skills to be the most perfect Agile imperfectionist you can be.

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Written by Brook Appelbaum Director, Product Marketing

Brook Appelbaum is the Director of Product Marketing for Planview’s Lean and Agile Delivery Solution. With nearly 20 years of marketing experience, Brook has led many different product and digital marketing teams. However, her favorite leadership role is that of a Product Owner. As part of an Agile marketing team inside Planview, Brook drives the campaign and product marketing strategy for the Lean and Agile Delivery Solution. And she thinks LeanKit is the coolest.