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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hobday

This is the book Agility wrote...

Back in 2021, on a rainy Saturday morning the kids and I started writing a children’s picture book.  There were wild plot ideas, zany characters, and numerous settings.  We typed two pages then got distracted.

It could have become just another 5% complete, rainy-day project.  Although it took several months before we picked it up again, this time was different.  It felt more purposeful; more serious.

Whilst only eight and eleven at the time, my kids were already familiar with the word ‘Agile.’  They’d heard me preparing conference presentations and talking with colleagues about agility.  I’d explained the concept to them in the past, but never had a chance to get them involved in applying it… Until now.

If this attempt at writing a book was going to succeed, we needed to leverage a method for getting things done.

We broke the project down into work items and created an initial backlog (based on what we knew at the time).  It included research on publishing, character development and high-level story plot.  As these work items progressed through to done, the backlog grew with additional work including further research pieces, writing, illustrating, and publishing tasks.  We used a simple flow for work: ‘To do’ > ‘Ready’ > ‘Doing’ > ‘Review’ > ‘Done’.  As we worked out what needed to be done, it was created in ‘To do’ (a.k.a. Backlog).  We then made sure we knew the scope of the work item and what we all meant by it, following which it would progress to ‘Ready’.  All items being worked on (i.e. in progress) entered the ‘Doing’ stage.  Before reaching ‘Done’, the three of us reviewed the item (i.e. ‘Review’ stage) to see if we were happy with the quality and that the piece fulfilled its purpose.

Along the way, I looked for efficiencies.  This was mainly focused on the most time-consuming work items, being the illustrations.  Each illustration was broken into three items, all of which progressed through the Kanban stages.  The first was the sketch - a rough sketch that helped us work out what kind of picture we needed and where it fitted (e.g. which page, illustration size, position on the page, and associated text).  The second was a hand-drawn black and white, line drawing.  We’d ‘Review’ these before investing time in the digitising and colouring process.  The third item was to scan the image, clean it up digitally, make some adjustments, and add the colour.

It was motivating to see progress at a detailed level.  Work items moving through the stages of the Kanban kept us focused on the end goal. 

It was great fun, and a cool way to teach the kids about achieve goals, collaborative problem solving, and applying Agile methodologies to everyday ways of working (i.e. creating something of value).

If you have a moment, please check it out on Amazon:

Illustration from, ‘Raccoon and Pig and the donut truck’ (Illustrator: Andrew Hobday)



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