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How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions with Agile

Reading: How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions with Agile

As 2013 is winding down and 2014 can be seen creeping onto the horizon, the time for reexamining the past year and making resolutions for the next comes upon us. Many people will determine they are going to lose weight, make more money or maybe spend more time with their family, but most will fail!

Why do so many of us fail to achieve our goals?

It’s because we take a Waterfall approach to our personal goals. By taking an Agile approach to your personal life, you can achieve goals of which you never even dreamed.

How do you do it?


Personal Agility

We Agile practitioners are probably less thrilled by these New Year’s traditions. We have been desensitized by countless iterations kicking off with commitments and coming to a close with retrospectives. Our cynicism toward a Waterfall approach most likely makes most of us jaded about these end-of-the-year festivities. Or maybe not?

Do you not apply the same practices in your personal life that you do with your team?

Do you make a goal to lose weight, go on the latest fad diet, join a gym, go to the gym a couple of times and then forget about it all by next month? Do you make a goal to make more money, but then get discouraged because you don’t know how to start? Do you make a goal to spend more time with your family, make a big effort the first week and then become too busy?

Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, you probably have attempted to tackle the problems above or something similar in a comparable way. I know I have. As I sat at my in-laws’ home on Christmas Eve, I asked myself, “If I know that it is incredibly difficult to predict complex outcomes with many variables over a long time period, why do I not apply the same practices and methods that I use with my team?

This question doesn’t only apply to purely personal goals either. Do you apply the same practices to achieving your professional goals as you do with your team goals? Maybe you want a promotion, a new job, a new skill or a bonus. I often see the most agile team members approach their professional goals at best in a Waterfall fashion. More often they simply state a goal such as, “I want to get promoted,” with no thought of how they can incrementally achieve their goal.


Achieving Personal Goals with Agile

How do you approach getting a promotion in an agile way?

First, you would need to figure out what are the requirements of getting a promotion. What is the timeframe? If this is a New Year’s goal and you want to achieve it by the end of the year, you have to assume there is a lot of variability in the opportunities and requirements of a promotion. If this is the case, you don’t want to build out a rigid plan today for the entire year. If you were an Agile Product Owner planning a new product, you would first discuss the requirements with your customers. Then you would break the requirements up into releases with a high-level roadmap. Next, you would break up the current release into stories and sprints.

As a team member you would get the stories and add details, task and points to determine what realistically could be achieved for the next sprint. During the sprint you would ask what you accomplished yesterday, what you will do today and what obstacles are impeding your progress. At the end of the sprint you would conduct a retrospective during which you would reflect on how to become more effective, then tune and adjust accordingly. You wouldn’t be satisfied with simply achieving your goals, but rather, you would strive to improve continuously.

Could your personal and professional goals not be better achieved in a similar fashion?

If your goal is to get a promotion, your customers are the stakeholders who will make the decision on who gets promoted. Sit with them and understand what it would take to get promoted. Break that conversation into requirements. Build out a roadmap to understand better what needs to happen to achieve the final goal. Don’t get overly detailed about the far-out stuff. Break it up into releases, stories and sprints and then focus on understanding the near-term stuff. If you don’t get the near-term stuff done, the rest doesn’t matter.

Be vigilant about asking yourself each day what you accomplished yesterday, what you will do today and what obstacles are impeding your progress. At the end of the time period you have chosen, reflect on how to become more effective, then tune and adjust accordingly. Act like your own product owner adjusting the stories, sprints, releases and roadmap as things change and variability becomes more understood. If you are honest with yourself and truly follow such a practice you will achieve your goals, but don’t be satisfied; strive to continually improve and you will achieve things that you never imagined.



I hope this post has inspired you to take a more agile approach to your personal and professional goals. If you are already practicing Agile in your personal life, then I hope it has inspired you to think over the past year and reflect on how you can become more effective, then tune and adjust accordingly.

What are some ways you have brought agility into your personal and professional life?

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Comments (5)

  1. Derek

    I struggled for years, trying to keep any kind of resolution. It wasn’t until I did two things that I actually started to keep them. First, I taped them to my bathroom mirror, so they were pretty much the first and last things I saw each day. Second, I did what you wrote above. Instead of a yearly goal, I broke them down to monthly goals. It felt great to actually cross them off one by one, keeping the resolution. My takeaway? Visualize what you’re trying to accomplish. Review often so it remains in the forefront of your mind. Break it down into bite size bits. One of my favorite mottos is “even an elephant can be eaten, as long as you do it a bite at a time”.

    • Torrey Dye

      Great stuff Derek. I like the idea of putting your goals on the bathroom mirror.

  2. Matt Bomer

    BOGUS article. No real Value


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