Hammer and the Hedgehog

What’s the worst place to have an epiphany about your whole approach to life being wrong?

At work. In a meeting. Run by you. About your approach to life.

Why Agile?” was the topic of our bi-weekly Agile Guild gathering: when to ‘use it’ and when not to ‘use it’. Answer: When tasks are complex, not simple. What’s another way of thinking about complexity? There’s high discoverability & low predictability. I just saved you the bulk of an hour-long discussion. You’re welcome.

No mind-blowing epiphanies yet. So far, we gucci.

All of a sudden, fellow Scrum Master Stephen busted out a cautionary quote about ‘using Agile’, a version of which I like is:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.  – Abraham Maslow

Well, in Asheville they say – that the Merrill’s small head grew three sizes that day. (And then – the true meaning of Agile came through, and the Merrill found the strength of ten Grinches Merrills, plus two!)

Mind equalled blown. Doesn’t often happen.

So I raised my hand, declared that I just finished picking up the pieces of brain, bone, sinew, and pride because what Stephen said hit home.

Agility has become a primary component of my world view, such that the mindset is my default approach to life. So it scared me to think of what I am missing by using mostly one toolset, as useful as I think it is. Not that I think I’ve been misapplying Agile, but rather that it’s the only thing I may be applying to problems or opportunities.

So what’s a citizen to do?

Well, let’s see why relying on one toolset may be dangerous.

For me, the objective fear is precluding the use of a toolset that’s more effective, efficient, appropriate, or heck, fun. I’ll bust out some practice from my Agility tool belt, or comb through my Rolodex of Agile-related principles, have an idea of what I want to try first, then go with that.

Hmm, and one of those principles is ‘continuous improvement’, so in this abstract case, if I don’t like an approach I’m taking, baked into trying it is seeing if it’s working, else, try something else. Ha. The Agile approach enables other approaches. The Agile toolset does not preclude the use of other toolsets.


This is actually like the tale of The Fox and The Hedgehog, a summary of which I like is from 700 BC:

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.  - Archilochus

In the ancient parable, the fox and the hedgehog got chatting. The fox is all like, “Dude, when those hunting dogs are loose, y’should see all the different ways I can escape. So many ways. And I try different ones, too. Oh yeah. I got new ones each day.” The hedgehog, taking the bravado in stride, replies, “A’ight. I dig it. I definitely don’t have the trickery you have, but I do have this one thing: hide in a hole. Works every time.

(I believe the parable continues with the fox, one day, trying a new way to escape, and messing up, and getting caught, likely while the hedgehog watches from the comfort of a hole, rapidly penning a parable she just thought up that may, one day, be featured in a blog post.)

So this Agility tool belt, Stephen. I think I’ll wear it a li’l while longer.

It matches my shoes.

What’s the best place to have an epiphany about your whole approach to life being OK?

At home. Before sunrise. Journaling about your approach to life and voicing deep inner explorations & vulnerabilities using the most perfect of grammar. And incomplete sentences. Into a blog. That’s public.