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Agility: Possibilities at a Personal Level



Some observers of historical trends have suggested that the Industrial Revolution could not have happened without coffee and tea. Control of working and waking is what the Industrial Age was all about. Is it time for a truly agile approach to how we work and live our lives? What are the real penalties we are paying for force fitting Industrial Age (plan-driven) living into agile development?


Linda Rising has a Ph.D. from Arizona State University in the field of object-based design metrics and a background that includes university teaching and industry work. Linda is an internationally known presenter on topics related to patterns, retrospectives, agile development approaches, and the change process. Find more information about Linda at

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Recorded at:

Apr 28, 2009

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Community comments

  • Thanks!

    by Olivier Gourment,

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    Thank you Linda for this great talk! Now I know what to tell my partner who forces me to drink coffee in the morning!
    I would recommend watching this video if you are interested in a bit of history on drugs (apparently, not in the muslim world), the industrial revolution, and the effects of caffeine (especially on children), and humour. The last 10 minutes are especially funny.
    I am still not sure what the link is with Agile (though Linda makes a few connections here and there), but definitely on hints about increasing (or not decreasing) your individual productivity in complex mental activities.

  • risks of caffeine exaggerated

    by Emily Bache,

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    I thought that Linda exaggerated the risks associated with drinking caffeinated beverages, and drew too far reaching conclusions about its significance. I also question the relevance of this talk to agile software development.

    I would like to comment on a few of the claims Linda made in the talk:

    She pointed out that modern people sleep for fewer hours each night than people a few hundred years ago, and that modern people also consumer larger amounts of caffeine. This may be true, but it is no evidence of a causal link. I also think that it is a bit of a myth that we get less sleep these days. Several hundred years ago they slept in tiny beds, half sitting up, with children in the same room/bed. They may have been there more hours but may not have got any more actual sleep.

    She also mentioned the amount of caffeine children consume, and the disorder ADHD. I don't think there is any evidence of a causal link, and I think it a little irresponsible to suggest so.

    Linda points out that during the industrial revolution, workers who drank tea at breakfast time were more alert than their beer drinking peers, and hence more successful, more likely to reproduce, and have descendants, ie we are descended from successful tea drinkers from the industrial revolution. I think this is rather a doubtful theory. For a start, any contribution of caffeine to worker success does not directly translate into reproductive success, and is anyway surely drowned by other more important effects such as genetic susceptibility to disease, quality of general nutrition, etc. Beer has significantly more nutrition in it than tea.

    Linda said that in Scandinavia offices must have natural light, which is true, the quality of offices here is generally very high. I don't see this as having anything to do with caffeine consumption though. Scandinavians generally consume large quantities of strong coffee throughout the year. My friends tell me it is a lot stronger than the stuff Americans generally drink.

  • Re: risks of caffeine exaggerated

    by Daniel Cukier,

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    I think the link between the Agile and Linda talk is the "Energized Work" practice. Maybe she is suggesting that the more coffee you drink, the more you stay waken and less productive you are, because you will spread your production along the waked time. You won't produce more (and better) software because your mind will be stressed and tired.

    Another point is: once Agile defends that "People and their iteration are more important", people should care about themselves! Drinking so much coffee and staying hours in from of the computer should not be healthy for anybody.

    Agile is about people and sometimes we forget it and give so much attention to the processes and tools. What Linda proposes is not an ANSWER for some problem, but a QUESTION: are we working too much? Are we really conscious about what we are doing? Are we being guided by real good wills for a better world? Or are we just doing things guided by the effects of the drugs we take?

  • Another aspect of caffeine consumption...

    by Olivier Gourment,

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    Thanks Daniel. Linda was clearly being provocative here, but in a good way. As a "revolution", Agile makes us question the way we work, and she definitely makes us focus on the right things.
    Just to "fuel" the debate, another fact: "To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water" (

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