Even my wardrobe is Agile…

Let’s start with some principles and definitions…

Agile does not equate directly to Scrum, Kanban or DevOps. Those are just methodologies that follow some Agile principles. Agile does not mean ‘Software Development’, ‘Innovation’ or ‘Technology’. Those are just Sectors and processes to which Agile is adopted (and, to be fair, well suited). While the Agile Manifesto is about software development, Agile as a concept is not limited to that sector.

Agile is a mindset. It encompasses some relatively simple concepts that are usually then complicated and clouded by different implementations, opinions, interpretations and misunderstandings, but at its heart it is a simple overarching principle: make the most valuable thing the next thing you do / use / make / decide.

There are thousands of questions driven by that one simple idea (“What does ‘valuable’ mean?” is the most obvious and difficult of them), and even more answers / opinions, but if you keep that simple idea in mind as a guiding principle you should always be more Agile than not.

Source: ModernAnalyst

Everything in Agile, starting from the Agile Principles, is aimed at making the next most valuable or useful thing available at the earliest opportunity.

The famous ‘Agile Manifesto’ states that Agilists value some things more than some other things (note: this does not mean ‘instead of’, or ‘to the exclusion of’, it just means ‘more than’).

For example, Agilists prefer collaborating with customers and users to adapt and adjust what we’re delivering based on feedback, more than (but not to the exclusion of) having scope and costs. We also prefer changing direction when we realise we’re no longer on track, rather than sticking to a plan that will keep us on time and on budget… but ending up at the wrong place.

There is much more, of course, but – most of all – true Agilists like to deliver something of (some) value as early and as often as possible, watch for the smile or frown to see if progress is good or bad and in the right or wrong direction, then figure out what we should do next (the next most valuable thing) and repeat the cycle. Agile is always supposed to be geared towards answering that simple question: what is the next most valuable thing we could deliver?

By that definition, even my wardrobe is Agile.

Actually, to be more accurate, my wardrobe is organised according to Agile principles (purely by accident – I’m not the kind of person who organises their wardrobe deliberately!)… Maybe yours is, too.

When I slide open the door to my wardrobe, there are shirts on hangers, ranged from left to right, with the ones I like most on the left (hmmm… and I’m left handed… I wonder if that’s relevant…). I always take a shirt from the left-most hanger. Always. Not the second from the left, or third, but the one on the left. It doesn’t matter what shirt it is.

After the shirts, on the same rail, there are ‘work trousers’ on hangers, ranged from left to right. I take the pair on the left. Always.

On the shelf above, my T-shirts are stacked with my favourite ones on top. If I’m wearing a T-shirt, I always take the one from the top, whichever one it is (in fact, I always consider it a happy omen if the T-shirt on top is a Manchester United one or a Ferrari one, and either of them is in action that day!). My Sweaters are stacked beside them with my favourite ones on top. If I need a sweater that day, I take the topmost one. My jeans and casual trousers are stacked beside them with my favourite ones on top. I always take the top item. Doesn’t matter what it is.

After I wear these clothes, they get washed and placed back in the wardrobe, to the left of or on top of the existing objects. Since the clothes I initially chose are my favourite ones, and since they are replaced back on the left / top, when I come to choose again, my preferred options (i.e. those with most ‘value’ to me and which are available at that time) are on the left or on top again, right where they will be selected.

And therein lies the value (to me). I get to wear my favourite clothes more often than those I am not so keen on. For me, with my definition of ‘value’, that’s a good outcome.

Some people might think: “but this means some clothes will never get used and other will get used more often and will wear out quicker”.

Cleaning Out The Closet Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from  CartoonStock
Source: Cartoonstock

Absolutely correct. However, if I perceived value to be realised by ensuring each item was equally used over a given period of time, then I could achieve that simply by ensuring that clean clothes are placed to the right / bottom instead of to the left / top. The end result would be that each item would be used equally often until discarded.

Some might think: “but both those routines would mean you can’t choose what item goes with what other item”.

Again, completely correct. I’m not quite in the same-clothes-every-day category as Simon Cowell, Giorgio Armani or Mark Zuckerberg (ten men who always wear the same clothes) but I don’t spend more than a microsecond wondering if two objects in my wardrobe “match”. I frankly don’t care enough for it to bring me any value (and most of my clothes probably match by the simple accident of being quite similar anyway ).

Source: Cartoonstock

It’s worth noting that none of this was deliberate and I never really thought about it too much until I noticed it in the last couple of months. I moved to a different Country for work and I now have two wardrobes in different Countries. I realised they are organised pretty much the same way. For someone like me (i.e. not someone who would normally be considered very ‘organised’) this was a bit of a bombshell. But after thinking about it some, I realised it is simply a manifestation of how I see Agile: there is a ‘queue’ of the next most valuable things (assuming the queue is organised on a consistent principle of value), and it will always have the next most valuable thing near to hand when needed. perfect analogy of Agile.

Oh, and one excellent added benefit to all of this automatic wardrobe prioritisation? It means I never have to think “What will I wear today?”. For me, that’s the ultimate value!

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