The Agile Vacation

Adam Krieger, Sun 27 July 2014, Reflections


Vacation is meant to recharge and replenish, but it can do it opposite if you get into bad habits. On one extreme, you can just relax and do nothing by waiting for the sunset or watching television. On the other, time away can lead to a battering of tours, outings, and eventual exhaustion. In either case, you’re playing catch-up when you get back to work. I’m not implying that you shouldn’t make room for downtime, but long periods of time without beneficial mental stimulation is a recipe for atrophy.

After this past week, I will go so far as to say that I’ve experienced the Agile vacation. Cheesy? Yes. Self-righteous? Probably. But it’s hard to ignore, given my observations. To be honest, I didn’t realize we were practicing this pattern until the third day. I had a bit of a “eureka” moment while eating breakfast and staring at mountains.

In Practice

Every morning, or the night before, the small team gathered and discussed what to do that day. I was staying with family, so we had five people for the discussion, but only four for the actual excursion due to other commitments. We made a plan, and even negotiated contract a little. We documented our plan and the information required to fulfill it. We had our maps and GPS modules. But as with everything else in life, the proof is in the eating. To say it a more Agilist way, truth is only learned by doing.

We set out in the morning following the plan. The plan was never thrown out, and was referred to regularly. It was not mandatory to adhere to the plan. Through emergent change, the plan became gradually less relevant, and was altered. Changes were brought about by both internal and external influences:

We each were our own customers. Being the consumer of the vacation, it was much easier to be in the consumer mindset, and we did routinely discuss our priorities. Whatever the current priority was, that was the primary focus until it was complete. This allowed us to stay in the moment, experiencing value, while knowing we had a great way to assess and react afterwards.

Scheduling Issues

A problem came up when I had to catch a flight, and there was an awkward amount of time before I had to be at the airport. Some waste was made, and lessons were learned, but everyone was still happy. When high levels of value delivery become the norm, a customer’s allowance for infrequent disruptions tends to increase.


I bring back with me a great example of how Agile principles can be very practically applied to something other than software. You might say that this example is charmed because it involves vacation and family instead of production and stakeholders. Something tells me that won’t be the case. I’ve personally got plenty of first and second-hand knowledge of vacations where adherence to plans or excessive downtime lead to a sub-optimal experience. You don’t necessarily have to go see a waterfall to experience downstream effects.

Thanks much and bon voyage,

Adam Krieger